Oh, What a Night!
High-energy cast of Jersey Boys brings Broadway to Boston
Directed by Des McAnuff
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
Boston Opera House
Oct. 5 — Oct. 16
My first encounter with Jersey Boys was when I watched the Tony Award-winning musical’s movie adaptation on a plane. Squished in a middle seat and crouched over the tiny airplane screen, I fell in love with the catchy tunes and captivating true story of The Four Seasons band. For nearly a week afterward, my Spotify playlist was comprised entirely of the Jersey Boys soundtrack, and so you can imagine my joy when I finally got to see these characters and songs come to life on stage.
It’s one of those musicals that’ll have you humming its tunes all week long. Packed with energy and addicting melodies, Jersey Boys recounts the rise of one of America’s most beloved bands from the 1960s, The Four Seasons. Of course, it’s not just a simple tale about hard work that paid off, but rather, a Broadway version of all the failed attempts, the Italian mobsters, the love, and the death that was involved in their journey.
The first act is essentially a continuous stream of songs that detail the formation of the group and highlight their first hits. We’re introduced to teenage Frankie Valli (Aaron De Jesus), who joins the band as the lead singer after being discovered by Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey). Frankie Valli’s signature falsetto voice is beautifully portrayed by De Jesus during his first few songs, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and later, “My Mother’s Eyes.” At first, it’s a wonder how high his range went, but after a few songs, I got used to it and just could not take my eyes (or ears) off him.
As a nod to the name of the band, the musical is segmented into four seasons, each narrated by a different member of the band talking directly to the audience. During “Spring,” we’re introduced to Bob Gaudio (Cory Jeacoma), a young songwriter who joins to give their music a fresh makeover and provide backup vocals and keyboard. Jeacoma’s fluid voice provides a gorgeous balance to the uniquely high-pitched voice of De Jesus’s character. Soon after Jeacoma’s character is introduced, the band catapults into one of the highest points of their career. One after another, we hear their top hits, “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Walk Like a Man,” and the energy in the audience quickly rises. We’re cheering them on from our seats, rooting for them to keep their fame growing.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses, and at the start of the second act (“Fall”), bassist Nick Massi (Keith Hines) takes over the narration, and we’re led around the rougher edges of the band members’ lives. The tone of the second act is noticeably subdued, and the songs become a bit more somber, my favorite of them being “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
It should not be surprising that a musical titled Jersey Boys features an almost entirely male cast — only three girls, Kristen Paulicelli, Leslie Rochette, and Jesse Wildman, who portray various high-pitched, Jersey-accented female characters throughout the show.
Other notable aspects of the performance included the incredible live on-stage drumming throughout the musical numbers, and detailed acoustic effects. In one of the early scenes when Frankie is singing in a church, his voice “echoes” and bounces as if he were standing under a vaulted ceiling. The only questionable aspect of the performance was the LED screen that would randomly show cartoon-like pictures related to what was happening on stage.
Nevertheless, this touring crew of Jersey Boys is a delight for the ears and the eyes. They are opening up Broadway In Boston’s 2016-2017 season, and even if you don’t think you would enjoy music from the 1960s, I’d give this show a chance.