BWW Review: JERSEY BOYS Mans Up at Broadway at the Hobby Center
BROADWAY AT THE HOBBY CENTER brings in JERSEY BOYS downton for a quick three day tour stop over the weekend. The show tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and also represents one of the original juggernauts of the "jukebox musical". Basically think of GOODFELLAS combined with MAMMA MIA and you've got the gist of this one. It's a blast that should surprise anyone how many Four Seasons songs you actually know and can sing along with.
I have never seen so many men at the Hobby Center palpably excited to see a touring Broadway show. Usually they seem like they are begrudgingly dragged along by daughters and wives, but for the first night of JERSEY BOYS the guys were out in force and seemingly engaged with the material. Part of it is that JERSEY BOYS is a tough talking show packed with more F Bombs than any musical I can think of. It's also loaded with nothing but nostalgic hit songs from the 60s such as "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Sherry", "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)", "My Eyes Adored You", "Stay", "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", "Who Loves You", "Working My Way Back to You" and "Rag Doll". The show has been a testosterone fueled sensation since debuting about fifteen years ago. JERSEY BOYS is so much a man's man project that Clint Eastwood adapted it for the big screen.
Rather than taking a MAMMA MIA approach and putting songs into an unrelated story, this show presents the history of the Four Seasons narrated documentary style by its members. Most people know the music pretty well, but few knew the band had a colorful history full of crimes and mob connections that were against the clean cut tradition of their era. They seemed to be more than a boy band and bordered on a gang in many ways. Forget BTS, One Direction, or even the New Kids on the Block .... these guys were hanging tough for real!
Jon Hacker leads this tour as Frankie Valli, and the performer has solid connections to the original Broadway run as a cast member. He does an amazing job recreating Valli's signature powerful tenor, and he sets the energetic fast moving pace with zippy delivery and impressive acting. He is supported by Corey Greenan who brings a surprising amount of machismo married with grace as the gambling addict Tommy DeVito. Hamilton Moore subbed in for Friday's performance as Nick Massi, and he didn't miss a beat or a moment. He provided a stoic base for the rest of the guys. The fourth member of the Four Seasons Bob Gaudio is played by Eric Chambliss who brings a charming nerdiness to the group's main composer and ultimate architect of their careers. The rest of the ensemble does double and triple duty fleshing out wives, daughters, and nefarious mob types effectively throughout the two acts. This is a strong cast, and the tour represents the show extremely well.
Klara Zieglerova's scenic design marries fantastically with Howell Binkley's lights. The set is simple with just a large steel frame filling the proscenium arch stage of the Hobby Center. Inside it are an array of lights and video projectors which set the scenes sparsely but effectively throughout the evening. Technically the show doesn't have a need for elaborate interior pieces or room for giant choruses of dancers, so instead it relies on speed and expediency. It works to tell the tale.
JERSEY BOYS won the Tony for Best Musical the year it debuted on Broadway, and it has logically found a home in showrooms in places like Vegas and onboard cruise ships. It's that rare show that engages men and women equally because it weds a tough guy bravado with incredibly interesting pop songs that everybody grew up with. If you're already a fan this tour is a strong one and well worth revisiting. If it's your first time to see the show this is a strong representation of what all the fuss was about fifteen years ago. Expect a lot of great music and extremely long lines for the men's washroom at intermission.
JERSEY BOYS is only in town for one weekend, and closes Sunday February 10th. If you need tickets head to https://houston.broadway.com/shows/jersey-boys/ . You can also reach the box office at (713) 315-2400.
Photo by Joan Marcus.