JERSEY BOYS Review: 'Oh, What a Night,' at the Ohio Theatre
"...What a night" for a packed house of swooning baby boomers on opening night at the Ohio Theatre who were privileged to follow the private lives of four blue-collared dropouts from New Jersey on their rise to stardom. Unlike a typical "jukebox" musical which weaves hit songs into a narrow-plotted story, JERSEY BOYS actually TELLS a story... and a very compelling one.
Under the outstanding direction of Des McAnuff, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and music by Bob Gaudio, Tony Award®-winning Best Musical JERSEY BOYS captivates the audience with its nostalgic music and true account of a journey which evolved from four boys to Four Lovers to Four Seasons and into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Each "boy" smartly narrates his own season, representing the rise and fall of the group, according to his own, individual perspective. Despite their ultimate success, however, the group endured many struggles on their rise to fame. However, when Bob Gaudio (played by Quinn VanAntwerp) joined the group in 1960 and they settled on the name "The Four Seasons" after a failed audition at a bowling alley named as such, things seemed to reach a turning point. "Sherry" was their first hit single and the audience rises from their seats as their music rises up the charts.
After "Sherry", suddenly, all things emerge into a long-awaited catapult to success with one big hit after another. "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," and "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" proved that these neighborhood thugs from Jersey weren't just one-hit wonders. In fact, these boys became worldwide music sensations who wrote their own songs and sold more than 175 million records, all before the age of 30! We are taken on their rise and fall journey with gripping narrative and crisp directing. A story peppered with drugs, prison time, death of loved ones, and constant financial turmoil.
Joseph Leo Bwarie as Frankie Valli is clearly the stand-out as his charisma and soaring falsetto Make Up For his small stature compared to his partners. As Tommy DeVito put it, "a kid from the neighborhood with a voice like an angel."
Matt Bailey creates an accurate portrait of a rough-edged Tommy DeVito, who brought the band together but his gambling debts with the mob and unpaid taxes lead to his eventual break up and the beginning of the group's demise.
As Bob Gaudio, Quinn VanAntwerp exudes confidence, charm and wit as the singer/songwriter genius who remains well grounded despite the group's fame. The self-professed "Ringo" of the group, Nick Massi (played by Steve Gouveia) adds style and truth as the group's bassist.
Director Des McAnuff provides a swift pace with shifting narratives, smooth set transitions and Roy Lichtenstein style art pieces which move the show along while adding class to the '60's time period. Sergio Trujillo's stylish choreography captures the movements of the 60's with a theatrical precision and flair, while the orchestrations by Steve Orich are extremely sharp and well executed under the direction of John Samorian.
JERSEY BOYS stands out among other typical "jukebox" musicals because of its gritty truth, humorous moments, and undeniable talent. As Frankie Valli said, "It's a taste of reality about four guys that grew up in a certain way in a certain period of time who, with all odds against them, became successful." Sounds just "too good to be true" to me.