Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
Directed by Des McAnuff
Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo
Music Direction by Ron Melrose
At the Bank of America Theatre, Chicago
Audiences cheer Jersey Boys again
Jersey Boys still is a beloved nostalgia trip back to the early 1960’s. With Preston Truman Boyd playing Bob Gaudio, Joseph Leo Bwarie playing Frank Valli with John Gardner as Tommy DeVito and Michael Lomendia playing Nick Massi-this National Tour still packs enough slickness, heart and bouncy tunes to make lovers of the show cheer wildly. I’m always amazed at the ‘staying-power’ of this show. Somehow it taps into the soul of the 1960’s, I guess? Since people love the show more than I do, well, just gets tickets and enjoy it.
Jersey Boys is the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons—Bob Guadio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. These guys are blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks. DeVito is a small-time Jersey hood and mafia want-to-be who narrates the early story of the rise of the pop foursome. Jeremy Kushnier plays DeVito with raging intensity. We see that Nick Massi is the passive, go-with-program guy and friend to Tommy Devito. DeVito’s control over the group is challenged when songwriter/arranger Bob Guadio arrives in the group.
The story of the rise of the group is told from each member’s point of view with their hits sprinkled throughout. Jersey Boys has a surprisingly strong book that realistically, in raw street language (too much use of the “F” word), depicts the crudeness of these working class Italian Americans. I’m sure some Italian Americans may resent the stereotyping here as some do to HBO’s Sopranos. The guys come off as male chauvinist pigs and the many of the women in this story appear as dumb bimbos.
We experience how success can destroy a group, putting strains on their families as the grind of travel and the cult of celebrity takes its tool. DeVito’s mismanagement of the finances and his gambling leads to a near financial ruin for the group. Frankie Valli decides his Jersey-style loyalty demands that the group pay DeVito’s million dollar debt. DeVito is banished from the group to Vegas. Bob Guadio and Frankie Valli reorganize the group as Nick Massi also departs. Guadio pens several mega hits: “My Eyes Adore You,” “Walk Like a Man,” “ Con’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Working My Way Back to You.” These audience favorites drew cheers.
I must say that in 1962 I was starting Loyola University Chicago and us “intellectuals” wouldn’t dare listen to greaser, blue-color groups like Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. We listen to jazz, show tunes, Peter, Paul & Mary, Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel and The Kingston Trio. We thought ourselves quite hip. It took me years to appreciate street corner pop harmonies from the Jersey Boys. Their cross generational appeal is partly due to TV shows like The Sopranos. I believe it’s the music and the rags to riches American style story of average guys making it big that resonates with audiences. These Jersey Boys could be us. To me, it’s the rich harmonies and Valli’s unique falsetto voice on Guadio’s excellent songs that gives Jersey Boys its meat. The fine production values helps also.
The show is a nostalgic catalog show with a semi-truthful story. It isn’t fine art but it is thoroughly energetic, fast-paced and entertaining. The snob in me pushes to fight shows like this. That is my problem. You’ll enjoy this honest look at the living outthe American dream.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 11, 2012
For more info checkout the Jersey Boys page at theatreinchicago.com
Produced by Broadway In Chicago, At the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe, Chicago, IL, Call 312-902-1400, tickets $30 – $110, Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 2 & 7:30 pm,Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, Running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission, thru June 3, 2012