Musical: “Jersey Boys”
Group: Touring Company
Venue: Fox Theatre, 539 North Grand
Dates: Through May 29
Tickets: From $33; contact 314-534-1111 or www.metrotix.com
Story: Tough guy Tommy DeVito isn’t much with books and school, but he plays a pretty mean guitar and craves a life of success playing tunes, scoring with the girls and raking in the dough, with fellow bandmates Nick Massi and Tommy’s brother Nick. His penchant for trouble, though, often lands him and his brother in jail, and their band, constantly changing its name in search of identity, flounders.
When he discovers Frankie Castellucio, a velvet-throated teen who wants to change his name to Valli, he teaches the kid the musical ropes and brings him on board as the group’s singer. It isn’t until boyhood chum and future actor Joe Pesci introduces him to a young songwriter named Bob Gaudio, though, that the group finally gels while taking its 18th and final moniker, The Four Seasons, from a local bowling alley.
In four segments labeled ‘Spring,’ ‘Summer,’ ‘Fall’ and ‘Winter,’ each narrated by a different member of the blue-collar band, we hear the cavalcade of hits by the superstar group of the ‘60s as well as their often tumultuous relationship and the peaks and valleys in their personal lives. The documentary-style book covers Tommy’s gambling debts owed to the Jersey mob, Nick’s inability to settle down with his family, Frankie’s marriage to and subsequent divorce from the streetwise Mary Delgado, Bob’s handshake partnership with Frankie, their relationships with mob boss Gyp DeCarlo and gay producer Bob Crewe and their eventual induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Highlights: “Jersey Boys” is that rare blend that manages to combine high-energy musical numbers with a rich and textured book that is every bit as compelling as the tunes. The show garnered four Tony Awards in 2006, including Best Musical, and continues to pull in audiences on Broadway, with more than 2,200 performances to date. It’s also spawned productions in Chicago, Las Vegas, London, Australia and two touring companies, including a previous visit to The Fox to record audiences in 2008.
It’s easy to understand why. Smartly directed by Des McAnuff, it features lively choreography by Sergio Trujillo, a clever set designed by Klara Zieglerova that utilizes Michael Clark’s comic-book style art projected on an overhead screen to depict the ‘50s and ‘60s eras, Jess Goldstein’s slick period costumes and some dazzling Tony Award-winning lighting designed by Howell Binkley that shades various scenes in a wide array of hues to accentuate their impact.
Other Info: Musically, the show is a resounding triumph, blending familiar Four Seasons’ hits including “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” with the vibrant moves of the four leads, some lush orchestrations by Steve Orich and persuasively impressive musical direction, vocal arrangements and incidental music contributed by Ron Melrose, all conducted seamlessly by John Samorian.
The story of the band and its individual members is smartly penned by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with songs written by lyricist Crewe and composer Gaudio. Taking that rich material and mining it with winning performances are Joseph Leo Bwarie as Valli, Quinn VanAntwerp as Gaudio, Matt Bailey as Tommy DeVito and Steve Gouveia reprising his 2008 turn at The Fox as Nick Massi. The quartet of performers blends beautifully not only on the music but also in the dramatic elements of the production to the point that their authenticity consistently seems genuine.
Reprising their roles quite capably from the 2008 touring production are Jonathan Hadley as the group’s producer Crewe, Joseph Siravo as mob boss DeCarlo and Courter Simmons as Pesci (Ryan Strand filled in nicely in the role on media night). There’s solid work by Kara Tremel as Mary, Alayna Gallo as Valli’s later love interest Lorraine and Denise Payne as Valli’s troubled and tragic daughter Francine. John Michael Dias will be playing Valli in selected performances.
While the first 30 minutes or so seem a bit sluggish, the production never slows down once it gains momentum. “Jersey Boys” has soul, heart and intelligence, and under McAnuff’s shrewd and insightful direction it’s noted as much for its story as for the music that sounds as fresh and infectious as when it dominated Top 40 A.M. radio nearly half a century ago.
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.