Wednesday, September 21, 2016
JERSEY BOYS, “Oh, What a Night” at the State Theatre
One of the big fears about touring Broadway big hit musicals that come back on the road for a return visit is that they will be short on star quality talent, have second rate technical aspects, and lack the vitality of the original show.
Fear not about the present repeat of JERSEY BOYS, the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, now housed at the State Theatre. This is a top quality production.
The cast is dynamic and talented. If anything, the reformatted staging, complete with dynamic electronic graphics, is terrific, the sound system is crystal clear, and the set is functional and attractive. The direction by Des McAnuff keeps the show moving along and fresh. Sergio Trujillo’s choreography is era correct and dynamic.
JERSEY BOYS is a jukebox musical, a compilation of formerly written songs shoehorned into a story line. In this case, it is a fairly accurate documentary about the formation, success and break-up of the 1960’s rock ‘n roll group The Four Seasons, who went from delinquent “Joisy” boys to become members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The show, which opened in 2005 and will end its Broadway run on January 15, 2017, has music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.
Divided into four sections, each designated by the name of a season, each segment is narrated by a different member of the musical group. As the story chronologically unfolds, over 30 songs are presented.
Yes, every tune in their folio of hits is artfully staged including “Oh, What a Night,” “Earth Angel,” “Cry for Me,” “Sherry,” ”Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “My Eyes Adored You,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
The story, which tells for the first time the group’s history, reveals that some members of the group served prison sentences, which ran counter to the clean-cut image the quartet portrayed. Included in their altercations was a stint in a Cleveland jail for skipping out on a hotel bill.
At the start of the show, Tommy DeVito explains the start of the band, “The Variety Trio,” which was composed of his brother Nick, and friend Nick Massi. Later Frankie Castelluccio (Frank Valli) was recruited. The tale rolls from there through many group name changes, the recommendation by Joe Pesci (yes, the Joe Pesci who later became a movie star) of Bob Gaudio, who became the main composer for the Four Seasons.
The show is filled with creative musical and visual moments. Highlights were “Pretty Baby” and the finale, “Who Loves You.”
All of the cast is strong. Aaron De Jesus stars as Frankie Valli. He creates a real Valli, well duplicating the singer’s famed falsetto. Matthew Dailey, as the often sleazy Tommy DeVito, Keith Hines as the frustrated Nick Massi, and Cory Jeacoma as the prolific, clean scrubbed Bob Gaudio, all shine. Barry Anderson is a hoot as the effervescent Bob Crewe.
Opening night the State Theatre was mobbed. Besides the show, comments were overheard about the newly redone and expanded bathroom facilities. Ladies will be pleased to know that there are no long waiting lines anymore.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: JERSEY BOYS retreads and newbies will all have a wonderful time. Oh, yes, “Oh, What a Night.” You’ll be “Beggin’” to “Stay” for another curtain call! You’ll leave the State singing and dancing down the aisle.
Tickets for JERSEY BOYS, which runs through September 25, 2016 at the State Theatre, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to www.playhousesquare.org.