Sharp dialogue, larger than life personalities, and that golden music makes the two-and-a-half-hour production really fly.
As a personal rule, I don’t expect much from jukebox musicals—the last few have let me down. Jersey Boys is the exception to that rule. Where the majority of shows focus on the major broad strokes of a musical icon’s career, Jersey Boys takes the time to highlight many of the ups and down—both musically and personally—of the legendary band The Four Seasons.
It is fascinating to see how the group formed in Newark, New Jersey and the myriad of incarnations the lineup endured. From name changes to personnel changes, it is amazing to think how this band came into existence and how it produced some of the most influential music of the ’60s—and that is saying something.
Told from the perspective of each member, the story moves fast. Sharp dialogue, larger than life personalities, and that golden music makes the two-and-a-half-hour production really fly. True, the first act does seem to move at a quicker pace than the second act, but the first act focuses on the rise of the group whereas the second act deals with the reasons why the group dismantled themselves piece by piece. It’s always easier to root for the underdog as they climb the charts as opposed to watching brilliance implode. That’s the kicker of this story—it wasn’t even the public of today that like to destroy their heroes; this group did it all by themselves. Personal differences, gambling addiction, and the desire for a normal life outside of the spotlight all combined to force Frankie Valli to stand alone and relentlessly tour just to pay off debts.
I will get to the cast next, but the real star of the show is the music. As each hit kept coming such as, “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “My Eyes Adored You,” it was interesting to see, allegedly, the events that took place to inspire the songs. If these events did occur as the production suggests it is fascinating to see how musicians can take what may seem like simple life events and turn them into timeless songs.
There was not a weak link among the cast. While I doubt the majority of the cast wasn’t even born during the peak of The Four Seasons, they each paid the needed respect to each of their characters. That said, there are a few that deserve special recognition. To the drummer who was onstage most of the time – assumedly Mark Papazian – my hat is off to you sir. Truly an unsung hero of the show, this man’s drumming was breathtaking. While he may have not ever said one word, his presence on stage was mesmerizing.
Barry Anderson, as the flamboyant Bob Crewe, was, well, fabulous. Whether or not Crewe was truly as campy as the show suggests, Anderson served gay bitchiness in spades. I would tend to think seeing how this was the ’60s, most gay men would be more discreet, but Anderson’s performance is so delicious, I am willing to suspend my disbelief.
In the role of Tommy DeVito, Matthew Dailey was a loveable hooligan. Dailey’s performance was authentic, genuine, and endearing. His singing was as impressive as his ability to charm the audience. I appreciated his ability to switch from the cold calculating mind of a criminal to being able to land a joke—no easy feat.
Finally, portraying Frankie Valli, Aaron De Jesus was impeccable. His vocals were absolutely spot on, and his respect of portraying a musical giant did not go unnoticed. That voice—that voice!—will stay with me for a very long time. While all of his vocal performances were exemplary, it was during his heartfelt performance of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” that really hit home. Truly the highlight of the show, the audience felt every ounce of heartbreak and pain that De Jesus poured into the song.
One quick note—this show is not for all ages. Leave the kiddos at home as the show has graphic language, minor drug use, and sexual situations throughout the show.
From start to finish Jersey Boys is a sensational show. While the production is crammed with The Four Seasons’ hits, the show itself is a testament to jukebox musicals—and how to do them right. Trust me millennials, you wouldn’t have Bey and Dave Matthews without The Four Seasons. Do your parents a favor and treat them to a night of magical theater at The Fabulous Fox. | Jim Ryan
Jersey Boys runs at The Fabulous Fox through May 22. Click here for ticket information.