Rob Reviews "Jersey Boys"
“Jersey Boys” is back in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I could not be more excited! This time around, it is a VERY quick run (through May 27th), so let’s get right into it:
For those of you that are unaware, this is the true story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, a group of guys who pull themselves up from the working class (both legal and otherwise) in New Jersey to worldwide musical fame and the cost that they pay, personally and professionally. Using their actual songs as the soundtrack, it’s like VH-1 did a “Behind the Music” episode almost two decades before the channel existed.
Having seen this production a couple of years ago, I was interested on how it would hold up for me as a repeat. I even purposely did not see the Clint Eastwood-directed film until after I saw the stage production so I could do a true comparison and contrast the first time. (For the record, I prefer the stage production overall, but I like the curtain call at the end of the film better.) There seems to be a little bit more use of technology in this production than I remember from before, although the basic stage setup is the same, with a staircase on either side of the stage and the live band underneath the scaffolding connecting the two. The transitions between scenes is incredibly smooth here, done by a cast that is nothing short of AWESOME.
And let’s get into that cast: I am constantly amazed how they find performers that fit these roles, especially Valli. Jonny Wexler returns to the role in the midst of a long run in the production itself, and he absolutely crushes it. If you know anything about The Four Seasons, Frankie Valli is not the kind of guy that can be properly portrayed by just anyone vocally. Wexler not only hits all of the necessary notes, but he envelops the man himself to a point where he had the audience I was in whipped into a frenzy more than once. Complemented by Tommaso Antico as Bob Gaudio, Chris Stevens as Nick Massi, and Corey Greenan as Tommy DeVito, this is a true trip back in time that celebrates their victories and even gives time to their tragedies in a story that even though I have heard it multiple times still fascinates me. (Pay close attention as the background of “December ’63 (Oh What a Night)” is told in a very funny way.) They also work with a live band while the actors play the guitar, bass, and keys themselves wonderfully. There were a couple of sections where the mix got a bit off balance, but not enough to take me out of the performances. There is also great work here by the trio of female cast members who wear multiple hats depending on the scene in Tristen Buettel, Caitlin Leary, and Michelle Rombola.
If there is a downside here (and it is very minute), it is that there seems to be that the cheese factor is a bit higher in this production than I remember it from before. Granted, it is not enough for me to use the word “cheesy,” but it just seemed different.
This may be a short run with the AT&T Performing Arts Center, but this is a nationally touring company, so make sure you make your way to the theater if and when it comes to a city near you!