A 25-year-old Scripps Ranch native returns home in May at the musical helm of the San Diego-born "Jersey Boys", a dream come true for the music director.
Music Director Taylor Peckham got his start at the Christian Youth Theater in San Diego and later went on to work at Lamb's Players Theatre, Cygnet Theatre Co., The Old Globe, the La Jolla Playhouse and more.
The San Diego native never saw the hometown hit "Jersey Boys" when it first had its world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse more than a decade ago in 2004; he was a young teenager at the time.
The musical, with a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, followed Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons as they rose to popularity.
But many years later, Peckham saw an entirely different play at the theater. He was walking down the lobby when he spotted a memento on the walls of the theater that caught his eye.
"I was walking through the lobby and I saw a picture of 'Jersey Boys', a candid they took during the show," Peckham recalled. "Then, next to it, was the poster for the play I ended up doing there, 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots'. And they were right next to each other. I was looking at 'Jersey Boys' like, 'Oh, that's cool,' and I was like (to 'Yoshimi'), 'What is that, that looks cool, that would be kind of fun.'"
Two months later, he would audition for 'Yoshimi' at the Playhouse, a show based off the music of The Flaming Lips, with a lot of the same team as "Jersey Boys". Peckham was hired to work on the show.
It was during that musical that Peckham met Ron Melrose, the man who ended up calling him in 2014 with an offer to join "Jersey Boys" as the associate conductor on the musical's second national tour.
But at the time, Peckham still had two weeks left as the music director of an Old Globe play. He asked the Globe if they would let him early, but they politely told him no. Melrose came back and worked something out with the departing associate conductor, who stayed a few weeks longer so Peckham could transition into the show.
He closed the Globe's show on a Sunday and woke up early on Monday to fly out and join the tour in Alabama.
The whole series of events is still something Peckham looks back on in disbelief.
"It was unbelievable. I could not believe that it worked out, and I'm so happy that it did," Peckham said.
Just two weeks later, Peckham filled in for the music director for the first time and led the show.
"It was insane," Peckham recalled. "It was absolutely insane. I mean, anyone who has done this show before will tell you that it's probably one, if not the most difficult, show to conduct ever."
One of the parts of the show that makes it so challenging is the vantage point, or lack thereof, for the conductor.
"Because what it is about this show that you probably don't perceive from the audience -- the first thing is, you're not in the orchestra pit, so you have no visible line of sight to the stage," Peckham said.
The conductor watches the show from a small screen on his music stand, which can be a challenge when he takes cues from movements or other visual cues from the actors.
The other challenging aspect to conducting the show is sheer amount of cues, and their placement in the score, Peckham said.
Des McAnuff, the director of "Jersey Boys", wanted audience members to feel like they were watching a documentary about the group, Peckham said.
"They have jump cuts, everything edited, lined up and timed," Peckham said. "Every cue I have, which is in the hundreds, easily, in this show, you take it on, like, the second 'n' of noon."
Those cues come back-to-back in the fast-paced musical.
Plus, when a new conductor or associate conductor joins the show, like Peckham did years ago, there is no put-in rehearsal for the conductor to practice with the actors, like there may be for actors.
"Your first time out, is it," Peckham said. "It's crazy nerve-wracking and exciting and that kind of stuff is the stuff that I love, that I live for, those make or break moments. Because it puts the pressure on and it really makes you realize if you are ready for it."
A year and a half after he was first hired, Peckham was promoted as the music director for the tour. He has now played more than 800 performances with the show.
There are few places a show like "Jersey Boys" could have started and grown the way it did, Peckham said.
"I think there are very few places where a show can start, like it did here, and have such propulsion to get where it did so quickly," he said. "I have to remind myself of that all the time. Because it's amazing. With such a theater community we have here, it's easy to forget how special it is, because you're around it all the time."
You can hear the audience's love for the music and the show through the show, Peckham said, but especially during a run of the show Peckham calls "The Big Three" - when 'Sherry', 'Big Girls Don't Cry' and 'Walk Like a Man' play back-to-back.
"Right after 'Walk Like a Man', we do 'Oh What a Night!' and it's kind of like, in that mini concert of the three shows, its kind of like we do an encore for the crowd," Peckham said, adding that the audience will often clap along and give them standing ovations in the middle of the show.
And those fans, especially the San Diegan ones who have loved the show from the start, are what make coming home to San Diego so special, Peckham said.
"There’s a lot of pinch me moments at this job," he said. "Every single show, when you see the fans who’ve come to see it 30, 40, 60 times, and they tell you all about the show and how much they love it – it’s great."
"Jersey Boys" will play at the San Diego Civic Theatre May 9 to 14. For tickets, click here. Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Music by Bob Gaudio, Lyrics by Bob Crewe. Directed by Des McAnuff.