Jersey Boys, which recently appeared at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, is an exciting, entertaining, and fairly accurate account of the story behind the Four Seasons, told using many of the group’s greatest hits. To those lucky enough to have caught one of its five performances, it’s no surprise to learn that this rousing production of Jersey Boys is slated to open off-Broadway next month at New York’s New World Stages.
The narrative of Jersey Boys, related in turn by each of the group’s members, starts in North Jersey, where street hustler and low-level hood Tommy DeVito puts together a quartet with his brother Nick, working small gigs in clubs around the area. When Tommy hears Frankie Castelluccio—soon to change his last name to Valli—sing, he starts building a group around Valli’s amazing vocals. Nick Massi supplies the dependable bass voice, but the foursome doesn’t really click until Nick DeVito lands in jail and is replaced by singer and songwriter Bob Gaudio. The story follows the foursome from beginning to inevitable breakup, climaxing with a final reunion at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Then there are those songs. “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Let’s Hang On,” and so many others. “Oh What a Night” is sung as Gaudio loses his virginity on tour. “My Eyes Adored You” is Valli’s song to his angry wife after one of their fights; “Fallen Angel” is his farewell to his late daughter. “Rag Doll” is performed at their induction ceremony. The show ends with four quick “where are they now?” monologues by the former partners, capped by the entire company performing a rousing “Who Loves You?” and a reprise of “Oh What a Night,” bringing the audience to its feet.
The cast are excellent singer-actors. Corey Greenan’s Tommy DeVito projects a hustler’s constant need for acknowledgment and immediate gratification without regard for the consequences, with subtle touches showing those growing needs worsening with time. Chris Stevens is a cool and contained Nick Massi, keeping a tight rein on a deeply buried volcano built of little slights and resentments. Tommaso Antico portrays Bob Gaudio with a good-natured generosity of spirit and talent, while Frankie Valli’s emotional roller coaster ride, his sense of duty and obligation hidden behind his sheer joy in singing, is captured in the balanced performance of Jonny Wexler.
The remainder of the cast tackles their roles with professional skill and grace. Among them, Wade Dooley’s just-under-the-gaydar Bob Crewe is a delight, while Sean Burns makes a comic hit as the puppyish young Joey Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci).
Des McAnuff and Sergio Trujillo, the director and choreographer of the original Broadway run, here create an almost non-stop whirl of movement and music. The work of the design team—scenic designer Klara Zieglerova, costume designer Jess Goldstein, lighting designer Howell Binkley, and sound designer Steve Canyon Kennedy—are all first rate, while music director Michael Gonzalez leads the orchestra through rousing renditions of the Four Seasons’ catalog of hits, invoking many fond memories.
You may have missed seeing it at the State Theatre, but I recommend you order your tickets now for the return to the New York stage of this tale of the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys!
Jersey Boys was presented at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. The next production in the State Theatre’s Broadway season will be Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, playing December 22 through December 24. For tickets and information, visit STNJ.org/Broadway.