This week marks the start of Tony, Grammy, Olivier, and Helpmann Award-winning musical, "Jersey Boys" at the Marcus Center. "Jersey Boys" is a biographical musical about Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and one of the best-selling musical groups of all time, The Four Seasons. The show runs Oct. 16-27 and Thursday night, Oct. 17 (7:30-10 p.m.) brought a large and enthusiastic crowd full of The Four Seasons and "Jersey Boys" fans, inevitably ending in standing ovation.
"Jersey Boys" is a unique kind of musical in that it includes barely any of the musical theater stereotypes. When going to this show, don't expect elaborately choreographed dance numbers, original songs, detailed sets, a hopeless love story, or even for the actors to face you the whole time. But this show shouldn't do any of those things considering the story. In a recent interview with Jason Kappus, the actor portraying Bob Gaudio, he said,
What's particular about this show in the musical theater genre is that it's really a guy's show which sometimes says this is the show that husbands drag their wives to instead of the other way around. There's cars and girls and a bunch of rock stars so the guys really love this show and so that's a gold ticket. If you can sell the husbands and the wives you've done something right.
And while it's doubtful that any women needed convincing to see "Jersey Boys", both men and women alike in the audience left the Marcus Center happy.
The concept of "Jersey Boys" is a musical biography of The Four Seasons told by each member during each season. Tommy DeVito (Nicolas Dromard) opens with Spring, followed by Bob Gaudio (Jason Kappus) with Summer, then Nick Massi (Brandon Andrus) with Fall, and finally Frankie Valli (Nick Cosgrove) closing with Winter. The great thing about this setup is that the audience has a chance to gain some insight into each of the band members' personalities while still following the chronological story of The Four Seasons from its earliest members to its final result as Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Besides a kind of self-referencing by stepping out of a moving scene to narrate and an overhead screen flashing "Summer" or "Winter", the color scheme and costumes change per season and narrator, making each member feel even more distinct. And while there is far more focus on Valli and Gaudio, the audience still gets a firm grasp of all four members' roles and personalities within the group as both the technical aspects and talented performances from the actors contributed to these distinctions. Though Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi are comparably the more minor of the four characters, Dromard does an excellent job depicting DeVito's shady, take-charge qualities and Andrus captures Massi's reserved, smooth personality while still making him the most unexpectedly hilarious character of the group. Kappus similarly did an excellent job portraying Gaudio as the young musical genius who is last to join the group but contributes much in his classic hits such as "Sherry", "Walk Like a Man", and "Big Girls Don't Cry." And Cosgrove is clearly the best choice to close the seasons as he expertly plays the lead singer and final original member, Frankie Valli.
You get four different guys you get four different stories, but here's where they all start.
One might think that this division in the narration might slow down or break up the flow of the show, but it does just the opposite. "Jersey Boys" is a fast-paced show that runs through a lot of details while still incorporating songs and four points of view. The actors quickly slip in and out of seasons, picking up where the other left off. Even the ensemble moves quickly in making set changes from simply moving some chairs or turning a diner booth into a car. This use of minimal props, fast-paced narratives, and occasional comic book-style screen projections on make years worth of narrative fit into a couple hours. This narrative style also helps build the excitement and curiosity for which song would come up next as each actor mentions their next big hit without name, the final reveal through performance makes it all the more thrilling.
Three girls, two cars, and four guys. Infinite possibilities.
The indisputable highlight of the production, however, was the music. The great thing about a band biography in musical theater form is that the audience already knows that the music they're about to hear is great. The Four Seasons were the most popular group before The Beatles and have sold over 100 million records worldwide, so "Jersey Boys" has all the best musical raw materials from the start. This particular touring cast of Nicolas Dromard, Jason Kappus, Brandon Andrus, and Nick Cosgrove sounded fantastic together, creating a remarkably similar sound to the actual members of The Four Seasons. Because of this and some unique staging direction, the audience often felt like they were watching a 1960's concert rather than a musical. And while each member of the group sounded fantastic, the real highlight was Cosgrove as Frankie Valli. Each of the four men suited their roles extremely well, but it was clearly Cosgrove's show as he showed incredible acting and vocal range. His exceptional falsetto combined with charisma and personality drew attention during each of the four seasons.
The only faults in the production were related to sound and had nothing to do with the actors playing The Four Seasons. A trio of women portraying American girl group, The Angels, sing "My Boyfriend's Back" in a very harsh, almost staccato rendition that stuck out in comparison to the dead-on Four Seasons songs. There was also a moment or two when the instrumentals overpowered the vocals, as if there were mic problems, but this problem quickly resolved itself without dropping much.
What I'm saying is none of us were saints. You sell 100 million records. See how you handle it.
Besides the pre-established hits and unique narrative style and staging, the actual story of The Four Seasons itself makes "Jersey Boys" stand out as fact that could easily disguise itself as fiction. "Jersey Boys" is a story that takes the audience behind the scenes to witness mob deals, real family versus road family, pressure to create hits, and rapid disintegration. The Four Seasons reached record-breaking fame and international acclaim before they turned thirty, and that rapid success combined with a tough, Jersey state of mind makes for an incredible story.
"Jersey Boys" runs at The Marcus Center now through Oct. 27. Tickets are available for purchase online. For more information about "Jersey Boys", visit http://www.jerseyboysinfo.com/tour/. For more information about the Marcus Center, visit http://marcuscenter.org.