Story: Tommy DeVito is a small-time musician with big-time dreams, taking along his guitar and combo partners, brother Nick DeVito and friend Nick Massi, wherever he can line up a gig. Problem is, the lads from the tough streets of New Jersey have a penchant for trouble, causing all three of them to spend time in the state penitentiary in the 1950s.
DeVito and Massi soldier on, though, and see their stock rise when Tommy brings 15-year-old Frankie Castellucio under his wing and lets the kid’s soaring soprano take center stage. Tommy keeps trying out musicians to make the trio a quartet, as well as endless variations on the group’s name, one more forgettable than the next.
Everything changes, however, when another Jersey kid, Joey Pesci, introduces the trio to a young songwriter named Bob Gaudio. At Frankie and Nick’s insistence, Tommy reluctantly adds Bob to their group, which takes its new name, The Four Seasons, from the refurbished sign of a local bowling alley.
Thus begins an incredible musical journey, as The Four Seasons rack up Top 40 hit after hit, appear on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand and enjoy the good life. That is, until mobsters call Tommy out on his sizable marker, gambling debts that threaten his life and the future of the group itself.
Highlights: After initial tryouts in San Diego in late 2004, Jersey Boys arrived on Broadway in late 2005 and continues to this day. It’s closing in on 3,500 performances to date, ranking it in the Top 15 longest-running shows in Broadway history, as well as still-running, long-term engagements in London and Las Vegas.
This third touring show to visit The Fox, after appearances in 2008 and 2011, may be the finest of them all. The production is consistently tight, features top-flight performances by all four of the primary performers and moves at a delightful pace throughout its two and a half hours. It ends considerably faster than the several years it took Valli and Gaudio et al to pay off DeVito’s staggering debt.
Other Info: Gaudio and Bob Crewe, the quartet’s long-time producer and lyricist, came up with the idea of a jukebox musical about the music of The Four Seasons. Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote the book with Rick Elice, suggested a documentary-style approach because of the group’s gritty, blue-collar history.
Director Des McAnuff shrewdly employs a video projection screen behind a scaffolding set designed by Klara Zieglerova that allows for multiple, quick scene changes that keep costume designer Jess Goldstein and staff hopping incessantly. Michael Clark’s projections cleverly utilize a comic-book style that adds humorous embellishments to Four Seasons’ standards such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man.
The book is cleverly divided into four segments, starting with Spring and ending with Winter, each one narrated by a different group member telling his version of the "truth." McAnuff emphasizes the fascinating story as much as the infectious music, from the quartet’s humble beginnings in New Jersey to its worldwide fame, complemented by savvy and slick choreography designed by Sergio Trujillo that plays up the syncopated moves of the musicians.
Hayden Milanes (Shaun Taylor-Corbett substitutes twice on February 27 and at the matinee performance on March 2) can’t match Valli’s improbably high voice, but he does capture the crooner’s style and charisma and sings very well in his own range. Quinn van Antwerp convincingly reprises his role from the 2011 touring company as the amiable Gaudio, who based a contract with Valli of more than 40 years on a simple handshake agreement.
Adam Zelasko embodies the persona of Nick Massi, who self-effacingly refers to himself as the “Ringo” of the quartet, but also reveals Massi’s addiction to partying to the point where he let his own children believe he was their uncle in order to avoid paternal responsibilities. Nicolas Dromard is very good as the cocky, swaggering Tommy DeVito, who likely was saved from a gangland execution by his loyal mates.
Barry Anderson is poised and polished as the group’s gay and savvy producer, Bob Crewe, while Thomas Fiscella acquits himself well as a genteel but chilling Gyp DeCarlo, the Jersey mobster who was the group’s own ‘Godfather.’ Marlana Dunn is the street-wise, tough-talking Mary Delgado, Valli’s first wife and mother of his three daughters, Jaycie Dotin is the journalist who hooks up with Valli later and Rachel Schur is Valli’s star-crossed youngest daughter, Francine.
Sound design by Steve Canyon Kennedy impeccably supports the production, as does the lighting design of Howell Binkley and Charles LaPointe’s wig and hair design. Music, sometimes a shrill or disconcerting problem at The Fox, is at a just-right, Goldilocks volume and comfortably smooth, with excellent musical direction and vocal arrangements by Ron Melrose and a 10-piece orchestra richly conducted by Ben Hartman.
Jersey Boys has lost none of its vigor or appeal in this energetic, enthralling and engaging presentation.
Musical: Jersey Boys
Company: Touring Company
Venue: Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Blvd.
Dates: Through March 2
Tickets: From $30; contact 534-1111 or metrotix.com
Rating: A 5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Joan Marcus