BWW Review: JERSEY BOYS Brings Spectacular Show to TPAC
For the audience attending the opening night of JERSEY BOYS at TPAC, it was almost like they had traveled back in time to the days of their youth, reliving the fond memories the music of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons has given them.
That fact was made even clearer when the packed house reacted to even the hint of a note from the iconic "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" during the show's opening number with pure excitement that re-living the magic of The Four Seasons was night they simply couldn't wait for. During the group's prime, it was the music that took center stage, but in the production of JERSEY BOYS, it's their history that stands in the spotlight, giving lifelong fans a look into the rugged past of their favorite singers, with their famous hits helping to tell the story.
The production takes us along the thrilling, yet sometimes tumultuous, ride through lives of The Four Seasons, from the rough New Jersey neighborhoods they grew up in, to the night in jail that began to strain the relationship of Tommy DeVito and Bob Gaudio, to every moment of success in between. What makes this a unique Broadway production is that the audience becomes an integral part of it, whether it was intentioned or not. From reacting with audible gasps and sounds of shock to the news of DeVito's surmounting debt, and Frankie Valli's act of valor in taking it upon the group to pay it off, to joyfully clapping and singing along to favorite hits like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man" and many more, the audience helps make the show just as much as the actors.
And audience-goers treated Jonny Wexler (Frankie Valli), Corey Greenan (Tommy DeVito), Tommaso Antico (Bob Gaudio) and Chris Stevens (Nick Massi) as if they were the real Four Seasons, cheering them on just as enthusiastically as if it was the 1960s. With their impeccable harmonies, each of the four actors seemed to step back in time themselves to capture the essence of their character's flaws and strengths, not to mention the ensemble cast that managed to take on multiple roles, brilliantly bringing to life the other figures that played an important role in the singers' lives.
But in the midst all the challenges the group faced, perhaps the most compelling element of the plot is centered around the idea of family. In spite of DeVito's manipulative and demeaning ways, the fact that Valli stood firm in saving his life and taking on a debt that wasn't his responsibility proves not only his devotion, but the power of what it means to be a family. JERSEY BOYS weaves this idea through the dynamics of the group that even in spite of multiple stints in jail, bloated egos and wrongful financial doings, they still managed to remain in tact for so many years, with the songs serving as the glue that holds them together.
This theme of family couldn't be more prominent than when Valli speaks the final words of the show, responding to a question about the group's favorite memory by telling the story of the magical moment they all sang together under a street lamp in New Jersey, realizing for the first time how special their unique sound was, with the road of success, and corresponding hardships that plagued them, still ahead. It's a simple story that proves it's the magic of music that made them a family, extending that love to the devoted fans that became a part of it.
JERSEY BOYS is built on the foundation that the definition of family is one of integrity, taking care of your own no matter how undeserving they may be because despite the struggles, you've created a bond that simply can't be broken, much like the one created with their loyal fans that still show up, filling theatres with the sound of their voices as they sing along to the closing reprise of "Oh What a Night" - and show no signs of slowing down.