Our Review of ‘Jersey Boys’ at Hobby Center

21 Mar



Before those denizens of Jersey Shore took over our TVs and made a mass-market splash for everything from self-tanners to scents (all apologies to my sweet second-cousin, DJ Pauly D), there was another Jersey bunch creating a storm in the rock and roll tea cup. And, in another in an endless stream of musicals that string together a bunch of hits (think Mama Mia, Rock of Ages, Movin’ Out et al) hinged on however thin a plot, Jersey Boys tells the story of The Four Seasons. They’re the ‘60s sensation that was never out of the Billboard Top 20 from 1962 through 1967 and charted three straight number-one hits, introducing us to Sherry and reminding us that big girls don’t cry and imploring guys everywhere to walk like a man.

The show bounced into the Hobby Center amid a swirl of candy-coated pop lyrics and fun, flirty melodies that predictably brought the audience to its feet. And a good time was had by all.

That’s the short version. The longer one, is that Jersey Boys makes for the musical equivalent of an E! True Hollywood Story, with less jump-cut editing and vastly more heart. Each member of the group, lead singer Frankie Valli, keyboardist /vocalist /lyricist Bob Gaudio, bass guitarist Nick Massi and lead guitarist Tommy DeVito takes a turn telling the tale of how this ragtag bunch of star-wannabes went from singing on Jersey street corners and seedy lounges to becoming a 1960s hit machine. Along the way, marriages crumble, gambling debts accrue, there are breakups and make ups; but through it all, there is the music – and a brotherly loyalty to each other that consumes nearly everything in its path.

Jersey Boys excels when it’s ebullient, tossing out chart-topper after chart-topper in rapid-fire succession, showcasing the four-part harmony of the cast, Brad Weinstock (Valli), Brandon Andrus (Nick Massi), Jason Kappus (Bob Gaudio) and Colby Foytik (Tommy DeVito). The arrangements here are darker than Baby Boomers will recall, lending a little heft to songs that danced along like so many puppy-lovelorn teenagers. Beneath that, where the demons lurk, the show is thinner, though it tries really hard to bring gravitas to counter all the levity.

Weinstock is a terrific Valli, his voice ringing in falsetto up above the rest of the team, and Kappus lends a stabilizing force – both in song and acting – to the storytelling as Bob Gaudio, especially up against the pugnaciousness that is Foytik’s Tommy DeVito. Watching the tension that swirls around the inevitable arguments over lyrics, structure – even the band’s name – turns out to be more captivating than you’d ever imagine.

Klara Zieglerova’s industrial scaffolding set acts as a blank canvas, easily evoking everything from Vegas hotel suites to recording studios, although the projected screen shots above it that occasionally resemble Roy Lichtenstein prints don’t add much. Jess Goldstein’s costumes perfectly capture the polish of The Four Seasons’ (and the mid-1960s) look, and Howell Binkley’s lighting occasionally steals the show, especially during “Dawn (Go Away),” where we go from backstage to rock concert with the flip of spotlights.

Make no mistake: the fun here is always going to outweigh the flaws. So what if “My Eyes Adored You,” Valli’s first solo hit that charted in 1975, is used entirely out of context and chronology? You get to hear Weinstock sing it with sweet sincerity. Sure, the vignettes of mobsters and messed-up teenage daughters seem dropped into the storyline just to have something in between songs. What does that matter when they’re spaced around “Sherry” and “Let’s Hang on to What We’ve Got?” It’s a ride you’re just happy to be along for. By the end of it all, as you’re walking out of the show, you will inevitably hear yourself saying, “Oh, what a night.”



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