Thursday, February 01, 2018

Jersey Boys

From left, Corey Greenan, Tommaso Antico, Jonny Wexler and Chris Stevens
belt out a rendition of “Sherry” in the Broadway Sacramento production of
“Jersey Boys” on stage at the Community Center Theater through Feb. 4.
Joan Marcus/Courtesy photo

Those boys from New Jersey are back at the Sacramento Community Center Theater. “Jersey Boys,” the wildly popular story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, has returned — and based on the nearly-sold-out house and enthusiastic reception, Sacramento is glad of it.

Whether you were raised in the 1950s, the 1960s or the 1970s, it’s hard to think there would be people who would not love this musical retelling of the story of The Four Seasons.

In its day, the group sold more than 100 million records and produced numerous hit songs (“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” to name a few), many of which are performed in this show.

Before the “British Invasion,” American popular music was dominated by two groups: The Beach Boys and The Four Seasons. Unlike The Beatles, the Four Seasons (Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi, Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli) came before paparazzi, and the group fell apart due to internal fighting and personal problems at the height of its popularity.

After they disappeared from the music scene, nobody cared about the background of a bunch of blue-collar Jersey guys from the streets until book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice came along and realized there was plenty of drama in the story. Director Des McAnuff, a longtime Four Seasons fan, gave the project the green light for development and opening at his La Jolla Playhouse in 2004.
After its move to New York, the show was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won four, and achieved such popularity that some predicted it could run “for decades.”

The story is told from the perspective of each of the members separately. Corey Greenan is DeVito, the tough guy, organizer of the group, and the one who got into the most trouble. He was the guy who left first and forced a restructuring of the music.

Tommaso Antico is Gaudio, who wrote most of the music and whose friendship and business partnership with Valli, which lasted for more than 20 years, was based on a simple handshake.
Chris Stevens is Massi, bass guitarist, who did most of the vocal arrangements, but who burned out on touring and just wanted to go home.

At the head of the group, of course, was Valli (Jonny Wexler). Wexler’s falsetto delivery seems to my doddering memory to be spot on, and he far better represents the character than the actor who played him the last time the show came through town.

The Four Seasons went through a number of names, including the Four Lovers and the Variatones, but they settled on The Four Seasons, which was the name of the night club where they were currently appearing.

Wade Dooley is Bob Crewe, the astrology-loving producer-lyricist, and Todd DuBail is Gyp DeCarlo, the Mafia Don who takes a liking to Frankie.

McAnuff’s staging and the non-stop energy of the cast are infectious. The enormous set by Klara Zieglerova — a massive thing of metal catwalks, fences, curving staircases and screens that move in and out for cartoon-like illustrations and video clips — add to the “massive” feel of it all.

But in the end, it is the music and the relationship among the four that makes this show and gives it its irresistible appeal.

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