The Tony Award-winning musical, Jersey Boys, is now playing in Dallas as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Lexus Broadway Series.
Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical, meaning that the primary score is based on previously released music. Unlike some others, such as Green Day’s American Idiot, or ABBA’s Mamma Mia, which have fictitious story lines, Jersey Boys tells the true story of the pop group, The Four Seasons. So in addition to catchy music, Jersey Boys offers a fast-paced storyline with elements of a musical documentary.
Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Long before reality TV, an ambitious quartet, called The Four Seasons put New Jersey on the map as they zoomed to the top of the charts with a slew of catchy tunes, such as: “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “My Eyes Adored You,” and, “Working My Way Back to You.”
It’s often said that it takes years to achieve overnight success, and this was certainly true for The Four Seasons. The show does a great job of showing how their musical image, name and styles evolved as they struggled to find their niche.
The story is divided into four sections, aptly titled: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Each season is told through the eyes of a different band member, a plot device which gives equal time to their differing perspectives. As Tommy DeVito’s character explains, “You ask four guys how it happened, you get four different versions.”
Tommy DeVito (Colby Foytik), shares his take on the birth of the band in the Spring section. DeVito is a fast-talking, street smart musically-inclined hoodlum who tells us there were only three ways to get out of his hometown of Belleville, New Jersey, “You join the Army, you get mobbed up, or you become a star.”
Obviously, DeVito chose to become a star, but it was not easy. There was a lot of petty thievery, bouts in jail and sucking up to mob bosses along the way. (There was also a lot of cursing, so if swearwords offend you, consider yourself warned.)
Bob Gaudio (Jason Kappus) steps in with his perspective for the Summer section. Like the others, he is an Italian American from New Jersey. Unlike the others, Gaudio had already achieved musical success. His tune, “Short Shorts,” gave him one hit wonder status at the tender age of 15.
Bob proved to be group’s missing link. What he lacked in street smarts he made up for in business acumen, which helped lead The Four Seasons to their first hit.
It isn’t until we reach the point in the story where The Four Seasons hit the charts with “Sherry,” that we get to hear a song in its entirety. Up until then, we only hear snippets. All this musical teasing makes it satisfying when the group finally finds their unique sound.
After intermission, it’s time for the Fall section, in which Nick Massi (Brandon Andrus) the taciturn bassist, shares his side of the story. As Nick quietly observes trouble brewing beneath the veneer of the group’s success, we are offered deeper insights, and several big laughs thanks to Brandon Andrus’ straight-faced delivery and comedic timing.
There were personality clashes, as well. Unlike the band Metallica, who see a marriage counselor to work out their group dynamics, The Four Seasons wound up having a sit down with a mob boss to work out their issues. This is New Jersey, after all!
Frankie Vallie (Brad Weinstock) steps in for the Winter section of the musical. By this time in the plot, Tommy’s gambling has plunged The Four Seasons into debt which, in turn, has gotten them in trouble with the mob. As one wiseguy explains, they would have roughed Tommy up, “But we like their music.” At this point, Nick Massi quits the band, and Tommy DeVito is shipped off to Vegas so the mob can keep an eye on him. In order to pay off Tommy’s debts, Frankie and Bob find musicians to replace them and continue touring as a quartet.
Frankie lets us in on his personal life, too, which is a shambles. Just as things seem to be shaping up, tragedy strikes. Not only did Brad Weinstock look and sound the part of Frankie Valli, but he had some surprising dance moves which added to his charisma. Oddly enough, Frankie and Bob had to fight to get the song, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” released since it was considered to be, “too artsy,” for the American public. Needless to say, it became a huge hit.
In addition to a snappy story, the Jersey Boys’ staging jibes well with the music and era. Comic book imagery, a la Roy Lichtenstein, displayed in the background complements the plot’s breezy style, while the stage musicians, dressed in snazzy suits and fedoras, are often silhouetted in the background to good effect.
By the time the Jersey Boys reached its finale, I’d not only learned a lot about the group but I truly cared about them as individuals. I highly recommend this show!
What: Jersey Boys, a Tony-award winning musical
When: June 15 – July 15, 2012
Showtimes: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sundays and a 2 p.m. matinee performance on Thursday, July 12
Where: 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
Price: Tickets start at $30. Check availability and book online at the AT&T Performing Art Center official website.
Runtime: Two and a half hours with a 15 minute intermission.
NOTE: While tickets were provided for review purposes, the opinions expressed in this article are wholly my own.
Photo credits: All photos by Joan Marcus, provided courtesy of the AT&T Performing Arts Center