BWW Reviews: JERSEY BOYS Breaks Box Office Records at Broadway San Jose - Playing Now thru July 20!
When you hear the term The Four Seasons and you think of "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Oh, What a Night," and "Walk Like a Man" instead of snow, leaves, rain or sunshine, then the hit musical Jersey Boys is a must see!
The 2006 Tony Award winner for Best Musical is playing now through July 20 at Broadway San Jose. Jersey Boys tells the inside story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, all the way from singing under a street lamp together to standing in the limelight of venues all over the world. Incredibly, these four guys created Rock and Roll Hall of Fame history with a 60's sound that no one had ever heard before. Get your tickets now because there are only five days left to see it!
The show is broken up into four "seasons" - spring, summer, fall, and winter, and in each season one of the band members narrates and gives his perspective on what "really" went down in the group behind the scenes.
Hodges and Hodges was there on opening night and has the scoop on Jersey Boys for you!
Nick: The show opens with a modern pop-rap version of "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" being sung in French. It was a bit confusing to hear this American classic in another tongue, but several bars into the song, band leader Tommy DeVito (a fantastic Nicolas Dromard) comes onstage and sets the stage by telling the audience about the group's international success and how it continues on to this very day. I'm in my twenties so I didn't grow up with these songs, so it was helpful to hear how famous the quartet is around the world.
Linda: Well, their music was a little bit before my time too, though I won't say by how much! But I will say that my parents loved the Four Seasons and they played their LPs on the stereo a lot. But this isn't a musical just for a certain generation. As DeVito made clear, their music is timeless.
Nick: I was pleasantly surprised at the audience reaction throughout the whole show. The story is not, for the most part, powerful or moving but the audience ate up every bit of it. The applause and laughter started off big and only got bigger and louder as the show went on.
Linda: The gritty Jersey slang and the raw reality of their rough roots made it quite powerful for me. And what's interesting is that at the time, their behind-the-scenes drama wasn't ever made public. Today, four stars spending time in the slammer would be headline news. They're lucky there wasn't Facebook and Twitter in the 60s. I like Director Des McAnuff instincts. He moves the show along at a fast pace with small set pieces easily gliding on and off stage or up into the rafters.
Nick: I liked the use of scaffolding for the proscenium and upstage set that Scenic Designer Klara Zieglerova created. Although it's a bit sparse, I thought the use of lighting (Howell Binkley) throughout the scaffolding was bold and really helped with the mood.
Linda: I liked the use of scaffolding. It indicated the urban and steely quality of Jersey and in fact Michael Clark's projections of silhouetted Jersey landmarks really helped tell the story. That said, at times the choice of lighting didn't seem to fit the mood of certain scenes.
Nick: You have a point there. When the guys were singing a great hit song, the background lighting was blue. Not a very upbeat, exciting color for a number one hit song. The low-mood lighting didn't back up the amazing singing talent of the guys until the end of ACT I. And at a particularly dramatic moment in the show (no spoilers here) when Frankie is devastated, the use of a white backdrop didn't really fit.
Linda: But the bright white and gold lights really made you feel like you were at a rock concert! The audience loved it and you could see people moving in their seats.
Nick: I personally enjoyed the character arc of Frankie Valli, played spectacularly by Hayden Milanes. Starting with his adolescent awe of Tommy DeVito (Nicolas Dromard), Frankie grows up and finally stands up to Tommy during the captivating scene where he demands that Tommy "Sit down!" I loved the take-charge attitude and his willingness to become the new leader of the group.
Linda: Quinn Vanantwerp was great as the gentle and virginal Bob Gaudio who was the songwriting mastermind of the quartet. Vanantwerp has played the Gaudio role in four productions of the show over five years. It's as if he's channeling him. But not to be outdone was Adam Zelasko as Nick Massi. Boy, was he funny. It was great getting to talk to him after the show and to hear that he got to be in the movie version of Jersey Boys. It was as an extra at the end of movie, so watch for him. He's got some great hair - and said that's one of his dreams is to own a hair salon in Los Angeles. Very cool.
Nick: He was so funny! The audience really responded well to him and you could tell that all four of them worked well together and had great chemistry. When asked about it at the after party Zelasko said, "The connection with the four boys feels really good." Well, Adam, if you're reading this, your harmonies couldn't be tighter and we could tell from the audience's over-the-top reaction that you were perfectly in sync with each other and with the audience.
Linda: I do have to say that this show probably isn't one for the kids if you're worried about language. There is quite a bit of cussing throughout the show that might not be appropriate for younger children. But for adults, it was great! I mean how could you do justice to Jersey without some four-letter expletives? Fugget about it!
Nick: Don't you love how guys from Jersey say the "F" word? It's an art form.
Linda: It truly is. But back to the show and a quick word about Broadway San Jose. If you haven't been, you really need to go. The venue is beautiful and the shows are top-notch. If you're in the Presidential Club there are all kinds of extra perks like an invitation to the opening night cast party to name just one. The party is off-site and we got taken back to the theater in a limo. Not a bad way to end an evening. Find out more at www.broadwaysanjose.com.
In the end all four men say one last goodbye and give their final views on the group and how it has affected their lives; four guys from Jersey who made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You'd think that acquiring that honor would be their highest achievement but the best quote, in a night of many great lines, comes from Milanes as Valli. Looking straight at the audience he says, "They ask ya 'what was the high point?' The Hall of Fame, sellin' all those records, pullin' Sherry outta the hat? It was all great. But the first time the four of us made that sound, our sound... when everything dropped away and all there was was the music... that was the best."
Hodges and Hodges couldn't agree more. And so did the audience, which saw the house break a record for ticket sales on opening night, topping even the ever-popular Lion King. There was a spontaneous and instantaneous standing ovation at the end of the show. That's got to tell you something!
Now through July 20, 2014
Broadway San Jose - www.broadwaysanjose.com
Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio (of course)
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
Directed by Des McAnuff
Catch a sneak peek of Jersey Boys by logging onto www.JerseyBoysTour.com/watch.
Photo: Jeremy Daniel