Jersey Boys Tour

The beginning of Jersey Boys starts off with a bait-and-switch. The opening number, circa 2000, features a French rapper riding the grooves of Ces Soirees-La. In English, for the Four Seasons fans, that’s December 1963 or Oh, What A Night. There for a minute the impression is that the interpretive, quirky opening song is a sign for what is to come. Then all of sudden several guys dressed in snappy suits step from the shadows, breaking into harmony. They are still at it over two hours later.

Don’t go to see Jersey Boys if you are expecting something provocative or new. However do go to see it for that rush of the familiar. The jokes, the songs, the peaks and valleys of stardom, the hard scrabble kids- in other words all of the strands of the well known American story that is not done well too often, particularly in jukebox musicals. Most of these cram in the familiar songs between the cracks of wacky plots (just see Mama Mia, Lennon, All Shook Up and Good Vibrations for reference). However, Jersey Boys comes with its own story of grime to glitter, as well as four very appealing and talented performers who lead us by our ears.

Of course if that was the point then we could all just stay home to watch reruns of Behind the Music. The reason Jersey Boys succeeds on stage is due to the saucy and sharp writing of Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman (co-writer with Woody Allen on Manhattan and Annie Hall), the crisp directing by Des McAnuff which infuses the story with constantly shifting narratives, the understated, stylish choreography, and of course most of all, those irresistible songs.

In Jersey Boys there are 33 songs, which is probably about six too many. There isn’t even an original Four Seasons tune until 45 minutes in. This may really bother some of the audience, but that’s part of the story. Nick Massi, Tommy DeVito and Frankie Valli played other people’s hit songs before meeting Bob Gaudio, a talented young songwriter whose songs helped to transform this struggling cover band into super stars. The show’s arc mirrors the singing group’s slow build up, their explosive success, and then their sad decline, sparked by mob debts of DeVito, the group’s street thug turned guitarist, as well as more typical pitfalls of band members feuding and families disintegrating.

The action toggles very efficiently, thanks to the industrial scaffolding, from street corner to domicile to night club to recording studio (in which Jonathan Hadley, playing Bob Crewe, the flamboyant producer, steals most of his scenes). At the same time, the minimalist design never really offers a true sense of place, which saddles the performers with more of a burden than a feel good musical should. In addition, the Roy Lichtenstein-esque projections marking time and scene changes seemed very out of place.

For the most part, the cast rises to the challenge. Joseph Leo Bwarie, although not the most charismatic, is a greater singer and a dead ringer for Valli on show stopping songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Working My Way Back to You” and “Sherry.” Matt Bailey, as the hot-headed DeVito, nails his role. Josh Franklin is quite charming as the young genius Gaudio. Steve Gouveia, as Massi, doesn’t really come to life until the second act, when he takes his turn in the narrative’s rotation. This device is a smart one that allows each of the Four Seasons to tell his story.

There are only a handful of the songs that are used to move the plot. along The rest of them are just for shameless enjoyment as great pop tunes. How good are these songs? There were several times when the on stage drama seamlessly shifted from theater to concert. During these times the audience let out wild cheers. The stars bowed gratefully and it felt almost real.

By admin On July 29, 2009