The Anthem finally opens Friday with Dave Chappelle and an August slate that includes Jason Mraz, and Modest Mouse. But the first musical performance will come from Frankie Valli on Aug. 7. The former teen idol is now 87 as he takes the stage with his latest version of the Four Seasons, performing the group’s well-known catalogue (“Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and so on) as well as his solo hits (“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Grease”). It won’t be exactly like before — staff working inside the building are required to be vaccinated and patrons will have to wear masks— but Armor is hoping the positive energy of Valli’s hit-packed set list will set the mood as the Anthem reopens.
And Valli, whose famous falsetto defined his work with the Four Seasons and his successful solo career, is thrilled to be back. He typically does 70 shows a year, even now.
“This is the longest time in my life I haven’t worked,” he said.
Valli, in a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles, talked about returning to the stage after 16 months of being sidelined by the pandemic as well as the latest iteration of “Jersey Boys,” the hit musical that charted the rise of the Four Seasons.
This interview was edited for space and clarity.
Q: You've got the shot, the vaccine. How long ago did you get it?
A: As soon as it was available.
Q: Are you at all nervous about going out there with crowds?
A: No, I’m probably more nervous about flying.
Q: You're 87 years old. Elton John is getting ready to do his farewell tour. Neil Diamond doesn't play live anymore. Touring is not easy. Why do you do this?
A: Well, basically, just because I love to do it. I have done nothing else for my whole life. [I] don’t have to stop doing it unless I get to the point where I feel I can’t do it anymore.
Q: Do you feel it now when you get back to rehearsals?
A: I won’t really be able to answer that question until I start traveling. The traveling is so much worse than the performing. It’s a lot harder.
Q: You've been doing some of these songs for 60 years. Are there songs you love to sing the most? Are there songs you say . . . Do I have to do "Sherry" again?
A: You have to approach it as though you’re doing it for the first time as far as the audience is concerned. They never get enough of that because maybe they see you once a year or maybe once every other year. They’re not getting it as often as you’re doing it.
Q: I've seen people like Brian Wilson over the years. He'll do "Good Vibrations" and "In My Room," but he'll also do some of the quirkier and more eccentric or lesser known things. Do you get the urge to throw in "Soul of a Woman" or records that weren't quite as appreciated in their time?
A: You do, but there’s just a certain amount of time that you have to perform. We do our performances for about two hours. We can actually go to three hours and do all songs that were chart records. There’s just not enough time.
Q: Frankie, your voice is a very special voice. And you've been doing this for a long time. What do you do to keep it up? Do you have to do voice exercises?
A: You have to sing a song on the side. You know, it’s like a body builder — he keeps his body in great form and he has to do it regularly. Now, whether I’m working or not, I mean, I sing.
Q: Going back to Brian Wilson . . . These days, he delegates some of his higher parts to different guys. He sings a lot of the Mike Love parts. Is that something you do, or you think of doing as time passes?
A: No, I haven’t gotten to that point where I’ve had to do that. So I really haven’t given it any thought. I guess we’ll see what happens after this year.
Q: I once interviewed Angela Lansbury, the great actress. She was 89 at the time and still doing plays. And I said, is anything different because you're 89? And she said that she does have an earpiece. If she forgets a line, someone can whisper it to her. As a singer, I assume you have to do something. Do you have to do any kind of lip-syncing? Do you have to use Auto-Tune at all? Things you didn't have to do in, say, 1967.
A: When you’re performing live, there’s not many things you can do. You’re either doing it or you’re not really doing it. I don’t know. I haven’t reached that point yet.
Q: So you don't have to put any backing tracks on as far as you're playing. I mean you can hit all those notes. I mean those are hard notes. You know better than I do.
A: Well, there are some songs that we’ve lowered keys. So you’re not hearing the same notes that you did on everything throughout your show. You know, Sinatra lowered keys. Everybody does. You get older and things change a bit.
Q: What's a song you lower the key on?
A: You’re not going to hear it. And that’s why I’m not going to tell you.
Q: "Jersey Boys" was not an easy story to tell, right, and I'm wondering, is there any part of that  movie and [2005 Tony Award-winning] musical in the story itself that you just sort of wish was still a semi-secret history? Or are you happy that's all out there now?
A: I am happy that it is. And something really incredible is happening right now. “Jersey Boys,” the play, is being filmed for television, and Nick Jonas is playing the Frankie Valli role. I’m very excited about it.
Q: And the "Jersey Boys" movie. Which Clint Eastwood directed.
A: The film I do not like at all.
A: I don’t think it was cast properly and I don’t think it was done properly. The whole entity was not put together properly.
Q: Why was the musical able to come off so well?
A: We [Valli and fellow original Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio] had more say. Our input was very important. I think Clint Eastwood is a great director and actor. I don’t think this was right for him.
Q: How do you make sure that this new version with Nick Jonas works?
A: Well, it’s going to be exactly like the play. We’re involved in that.
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons Aug. 7 at 8 p.m. at the Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW. $55-$125. theanthemdc.com.