The Second National Tour of Jersey Boys, winner of four Tony Awards, a Grammy, an Olivier and a Helpmann (Australia) is currently running at the Forrest Theatre. This is a triple play musical and it’s easy to see why. The book (dialogue) written by Marshall Brickman (one of my favorite writers of all time) and Rick Elice (no slouch himself) is as tight as a drum. Gritty, funny and human, it tells the story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons through the eyes of each of the four members of the band, Tommy DeVito, Bob Guadio, Frankie Valli and Nick Massi. The music by Bob Gaudio with lyrics by Bob Crewe is a litany of hit songs recorded by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. And if that’s not enough for you, the third element that knocks it out of the park is the amazing direction by Des McAnuff.
Okay, I lied. There is the fourth element – the terrific assortment of talent up on the stage. Jersey Boys boasts a cast of 16 actors onstage, many of whom play multiple roles, plus a 10 piece orchestra (some members of which also appear onstage). But let’s start with the big four. Brad Weinstock as Frankie Valli has the awesome task of singing and dancing his way through 27 musical numbers while aging 40 years without benefit of make-up. Not only does his voice sound like Valli’s, with the signature high gliding falsetto, but it also soars as a fine instrument in its own right. Brandon Andrus as Nick Massi, the cool detached bass player of the group, has a wonderful ease onstage as an actor and a rich deep voice to go with it. Wide eyed Jason Kappus is endearing as Bob Gaudio, the youngest member of the band, whose original songs skyrocket the group to number one on the Billboard Charts. And Colby Foytik as bandleader and minor thug Tommy DeVito, is a character you love to hate. Also of note is Barry Andersen who’s wonderful as the obviously out producer/lyricist, Bob Crewe who produces the group’s first hit. There are only four women in the cast who get to play all the wives, lovers, hookers, girl group members, etc. as this is decidedly a guy heavy show. It’s very uncharacteristic in musical theatre to see so many guys on stage – so ladies enjoy the view.
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo keeps the whole cast jumping at an energetic pace and for the Four Seasons he recreates their classic 60’s moves, which they imitated from the Black groups of the day. The very trendy scenic design by Klara Zieglerova is comprised of levels of iron caging with a winding staircase that works for prisons, recording studios, TV studios, nightclubs and hotels. A huge video screen tops it all where we can ostensibly see in black and white, what the TV cameras are recording when the group appears on various shows (Ed Sullivan, American Bandstand). It’s a very clever device that works well on so many levels as does the lighting design by Howell Binkley. It’s no wonder that Mr. Binkley won the 2006 Tony Award for his work on this show. There are stunning images as the cyclorama goes bright red with a silhouette of telephone poles and a cityscape against it. Sometimes it’s just the silhouette of a drum set. In any case, it’s a visual feast and the orchestrations by Steve Orich are an audial delight.
I don’t say this often, but it’s a show I could see again. So if you haven’t seen it once, give yourself a Christmas present. Tickets are available by calling 800-447-7400 or at the Forrest Theatre Box Office located at 1114 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. Or you can log onto the Telecharge website at www.telecharge.com/jbphilly.
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