THEATER REVIEW: “Jersey Boys” @ Playhouse Square by Roy Berko

Photo by Joan Marcus

Tue 1/21-Sun 1/26

Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, returned to Playhouse Square’s Connor Palace for a short run this past week.

How many times can one see the show and still appreciate it? Obviously from the large enthusiastic crowd who braved the cold to get to opening night, the answer to Jersey Boys is, “As many times as the powers that be bring it back.”

Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical, a compilation of formerly written songs shoehorned into a story line. In this case, it is a fairly well-written documentary about the formation, success and break-up of the 1960s pop group the Four Seasons, who went from delinquent “Joisy” boys to become inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The musical, which opened in 2005 and ended 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 by director Des McAnuff and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, 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 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 Holiday Inn hotel bill. (This revelation drew extended cheers from the audience, as did the reference to their being installed in the Cleveland-housed Rock Hall.

At the start of the show, Tommy DeVito explains the start of the band, “The Variety Trio,” which was composed of his brother, 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 an Oscar-winning movie star) of adding 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,” “Bye Bye Baby” “Working My Way Back to You” and the finale, “Who Loves You.

The cast is strong. Jon Hacker stars as Frankie Valli. He creates a real Valli, well-duplicating the singer’s famed falsetto. Corey Greenan is the sleazy Joisy-bred and neighborhood-loyal Tommy DeVito. Handsome Eric Chambliss is character-right as the prolific, clean-scrubbed, creative Bob Gaudio. Michael Milton gives fidelity to Nick Massi, the reluctant performer. Though he overdoes the fay illusion, Sean McGee is a crowdpleaser as the effervescent Bob Crewe.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: Both Jersey Boys fanatics and newbies will have a wonderful time at this revival of a revival. Oh, yes, “Oh, What a Night.” You’ll be “Beggin’” to “Stay” for another curtain call! You’ll leave clapping, singing and dancing down the aisle.

[Written by Roy Berko, member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle]

 

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