Jersey Boys | The Story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

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jb_finale.jpgHow did four blue-collar kids become one of the greatest successes in pop music history?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabulous Fox Theater

Through May 18, 2008

Jersey Boys, the 2006 Tony® Award winner for Best Musical, made its St. Louis debut at the Fabulous Fox Theater on Friday night to a packed house. The documentary-style musical chronicles the rise to stardom of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and answers the question, "How did four blue-collar kids become one of the greatest successes in pop music history?" It answers this question from four different perspectives, that of the original members of the group: Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio.

Opening on a street corner in Jersey, the first half of Act I reads much like a Sopranos script with f-bombs flying left and right and thick Jersey Italian accents aplenty. This portion of the story, the group's humble beginning, is narrated by Tommy DeVito (played to perfection by Erik Bates), the group's founder, early leader and resident "thug." Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this glimpse at the Four Seasons' early formation is the fact that Valli, DeVito and Massi are introduced to fourth member and hit songwriter Bob Gaudio by a short, hyper and overeager "pal" from the neighborhood named Joey - otherwise known as Joe Pesci. Pesci is actually one of the producers of the Broadway hit and claims to have been present and a part of the band's formation.

The rest of Act I is told by Gaudio (played delightfully by Andrew Rannells), the teen songwriting sensation partly responsible for the group's biggest hits including his so-called "hat-trick" of "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man." Next up narrating in Act II is Massi (Steve Gouveia), the quiet and reluctant drummer who constantly dreams of starting his own band; and finally, Valli himself (in a dead-on portrayal by the outstanding Christopher Kale Jones), whose vulnerable side emerges through personal struggles with marriage and family in the face of fame. Each of the four had differing goals and visions for the band's success and their own, which ultimately led them down different paths. Jonathan Hadley is fabulous and flamboyant in the supporting role of Bob Crewe, Gaudio's co-writer and lyricist for many of the Four Seasons' and Valli's greatest hits.

This production of Jersey Boys is top-notch - from the acting to the singing, dancing and even the set, costume and lighting design. However, this is most definitely a "generational" show. It's safe to say anyone who came of age in the early 60s will appreciate the story and the songs far more than those of the younger generation. Just as RENT spoke loudly to twenty-somethings in the mid-90s while others maybe didn't "get it"quite as much, Jersey Boys is tailor-made for the Boomer generation, for whom Valli's songs and voice were the soundtrack of their youth. While highly entertaining, it lacks the universality of a show like Hairspray - which, although it takes place in the same era, has a broader appeal to the masses.

For me, hearing some of the Four Seasons' most recognizable songs actually reminded me more of the numerous television commercials and shows they have been featured in over the past 30 years than anything else. The exception may be their 1975 hit "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)," the signature song of the production featured in the opening, middle andclosing of the show.

The story itself and the four fantastic actors in the lead roles are what give this show its heart and soul. For fans of music of the early 60s and great dance numbers (who aren't easily offended by foul language), Jersey Boys is an enjoyable night at the theater. | Amy Burger

 

Tickets for JERSEY BOYSon sale now at the Fox Theatre box office, online through www.metrotix.com, MetroTix charge by phone at 314/534-1111 and all MetroTix outlets.

Performances:

Tues. - Fri. 8pm • Sat. 2& 8pm • Sun. 2 & 7:30pm • Thurs. April 24 at 1pm

 

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