BWW Reviews: JERSEY BOYS Offers Rare Insight to Four Seasons' Path to the Top
BWW Reviews: JERSEY BOYS offers rare insight Four Seasons' path to the top
There were three ways out of New Jersey in the 1960s, according to the musical JERSEY BOYS. A person could get drafted in the military, mobbed up or become stars. JERSEY BOYS tells the true story of Frank Valli, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio, four blue collar kids who chose the latter path and became the Four Seasons.
The show received an enthusiastic reception during its return to the Ohio Theater on Sept. 18. First-time goers to the show may have expected to see a K-tel Records assortment of the Four Season's greatest hits with a thin storyline around it. Jason Kappus, who plays Gaudio, says what separates JERSEY BOYS from compilation musicals like MAMMA MIA or ROCK OF AGES is an engaging narrative of the journey the band took to the top.
"JERSEY BOYS gets lumped into the jukebox musical category," says Kappus who was in a Broadway version of Green Day's AMERICAN IDIOT before joining the show. "Most jukebox musicals take the songs from a certain group and build a story into it based on the songs. Sometimes it comes across as forced or disjointed.
"The brilliant thing about Jersey Boys is it is a wonderfully written play that happens to have music in it because these four guys were a rock band. The play happens naturally around the songs."
Those who only knew the Four Season by their hits like "Walk Like a Man," "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" and Valli's soaring falsetto got a lesson in entertainment physics. Lesson Number One is gravity. Whatever goes up to the top of the pop charts usually comes crashing down.
During the two and a half hour musical, the band navigating a minefield of booze, women, egos and debt collectors as it compiles five number one hits between 1962-75. The Four Seasons were the only group to have hit songs before, during and after the Beatles invasion of America.
"The music gets a lot of people in the door especially if they were fans of the Four Seasons growing up," Kappus says. "What keeps this show going is this incredible story of gambling debts, mob connections and jail time. Even people who were fans of this group growing up in the 60s didn't know the whole story of what these guys went through."
There's good reason why the show offers such strong insight to the band's path. Gaudio composed most of the music for the show, and Bob Crewe, a record producer who discovered the Four Seasons and produced artists like Michael Jackson, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and Patti LaBelle, took a very active roles in the show. If Kappus was a little intimidated trying out for the tour in front of Gaudio, the man who he portrays, he shouldn't have been.
"The best piece advice I got before my final audition was an associate director told me the role Bob cares the least about in the show is himself," Kappus says. "It's his wife Judy (who was also at the auditions) you have to impress. Apparently that went well."
One of the great parts of the show is that it is told from the perspective of four unique members of the band and just Valli's, the lead singer or Gaudio's, the main song writer. The show starts off with DeVito (the brassy Nicolas Dromard) telling how he, a street-smart hood from New Jersey, was responsible for building the Four Seasons. Midway through the first act, the point of view switches to Gaudio, a reluctant performer who was recruited for the band by Joe Pesci (yes, the actor). In the second act, Massi (the comically droll Brandon Andrus) tells how DeVito's debts to the mob and gambling problems nearly brought down the band. Finally Valli (Nick Cosgrove, who handles Valli's falsetto flawlessly) relives the final days of the original band and how he and Gaudio strove to keep the band alive to pay off the debts incurred by DeVito.
Stories like the Four Seasons' are more than the recollections of the four members. They are also the stories the wives who were divorced, the children who were left behind and the users, abusers and the hangers on left in the band's wake. Barry Anderson is hilarious as the over-the-top record producer. Marlana Dunn (Valli's first wife Mary Delgado), Kaleigh Cronin (Valli's girlfriend Lorraine) and Thomas Fiscella (mob boss Gyp DeCarlo) also contribute memorable performances.