‘Jersey Boys’ a look behind the limelight
We’re all familiar with the oldies “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry” and “Oh, What a Night,” but few know much about the four men behind these hits – until now, thanks to the Tony Award-winning, international Broadway phenomenon “Jersey Boys.”
Subtitled “The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons,” “Jersey Boys” is an irresistible musical biography of a hugely successful pop group – and one of the best jukebox musicals to date.
The national touring production, now playing at the INB Performing Arts Center, takes the audience on The Four Seasons’ compelling journey of grit, success, loyalty and loss. First-rate performances by lead cast members (Nick Cosgrove, John Gardiner, Miles Jacoby and Michael Lomenda) directed by Des McAnuff; backed by a 12-piece orchestra led by Ben Hartman, transport us back to the doo-wop era with pulsating vitality.
Created by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, original Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio and Four Seasons record producer Bob Crewe, the show recalls the group’s blue-collar beginnings: four Italian boys harmonizing under streetlamps in the New Jersey projects. It reveals connections they had to the mob in their early career.
The group’s name changes from the Variatones to The Four Lovers and eventually to The Four Seasons. The show highlights their monumental number of hits on the Billboard Hot 100 from 1962 to 1995 and their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
The story is uniquely narrated from the conflicting perspectives of the four group members: lead singer Valli; streetwise visionary of the group, Tommy DeVito; musical boy wonder Gaudio; and reticent bass player Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda). Divided into four sections or “seasons,” the narrations and dialogue (told in authentic New Jersey vernacular, swear words and all) represent seasons of the group’s career. As Valli and DeVito, Cosgrove and Gardiner provide impactful narrations as polar opposites. Valli is mature, loyal and remorseful, while DeVito is ruthless, self-serving and destructive.
Cosgrove embodies Valli’s petite stature and signature falsetto, greatly complemented by the satiny baritone, bass and tenor vocals of Gardiner, Lomenda and Jacoby. Klara Zieglerova’s set design of industrial architecture, lounge club marquees and Ed Sullivan Show-inspired TV projections is appealing except for the Lichtenstein comic book backdrops, which seem overworked. Tony-winning lighting designer Howell Binkley’s ingenious use of blinding spotlights at the close of Act One puts the audience directly on stage with the slick-haired, glitter-lapelled foursome and makes “Dawn (Go Away)” one of the most memorable, ovation-worthy numbers of the night.