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October 20, 2014

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Six questions for Erich Bergen, actor and songwriter

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Sam Morris

Jersey Boys” star Erich Bergen will showcase his songwriting in solo benefit shows at the Liberace Museum.

Jersey Boys Acting Class

Two stars from Jersey Boys give local teens acting tips for CineVegas Clubhouse. The project allows kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Las Vegas to create and star in their own short film. The feature will have a red carpet premiere at the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival this June.

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The musical “Jersey Boys,” about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is still bright and sharp as a razor as it nears its first anniversary at the Palazzo. Erich Bergen, who plays the pop quartet’s genius songwriter Bob Gaudio, says the role inspired him to write songs. Bergen performs two solo showcases, 7 p.m. Wednesday and April 8, to benefit the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts (www.liberace.org).

Were you a Four Seasons fan?

My dad grew up in Pittsburgh in the ’50s, and he used to sing Four Seasons songs on the stoop. He made me listen to Cousin Brucie — the guy who broke the Four Seasons on the radio. So I knew all of their songs, but I didn’t know they were all by the same group.

How do you rate Bob Gaudio as a songwriter?

He knew how to write for a specific person. When he heard Frankie Valli’s voice, he heard it as a solo instrument. When he heard Sinatra, Neil Diamond, same thing. He has those ears.

And your songs?

This sudden songwriting spurt was absolutely spurred by playing Bob Gaudio. It’s very similar to what happened with Barry Manilow — he wanted to write songs and have other people sing them, and when no one else wanted to do them, he became the performer.

So Vegas was a songwriting laboratory for you?

I get tips from Bob Gaudio. And one of my songs somehow caught the attention of one of my idols, Marty Panzer, who wrote big hits for Barry Manilow. So two guys who inspired me to write lyrics are now teaching me to write.

YouTube has videos of you performing Michael Jackson songs.

I was and still am a kid with ADD, and my mother had no idea what to do with me, so she put on MTV when it was all Michael all the time. I was instantly obsessed. There are audio clips in my show of 3-year-old me singing “Man in the Mirror.” It’s hilarious.

What else will we hear at your solo shows?

Half is the music that inspired me, the other half is my songwriting. The Composers Showcase (a monthly event at the Liberace Museum) is the reason I kept writing songs. So these shows are my way of giving back.

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