BWW Review: JERSEY BOYS at the Providence Performing Arts Center
As an older Millennial, songs by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons have always been part of the landscape during my lifetime, on the radio, in stores, etc. But who were the men behind the music? Enter JERSEY BOYS, subtitled "The Story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons" which is exactly that, portraying the rise, success, and eventual decline of the popular 1960s group.
The show starts from the very beginning, when future band members Nick Massi (Jonathan Cable) and Tommy DeVito (Corey Greenan) are a two-man act performing at small venues in the early 1950s, through the recruitment of Frankie Castelluccio (later changed to Valli) (Courter Simmons) and Bob Gaudio (Eric Chambliss) and concludes with the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. This narrative is presented as - appropriately enough-- different seasons, narrated by a different member of the band each time, giving multiple perspectives on the events that occur within the group.
Performances are great across the board, with the actors portraying the Four Seasons doing an excellent job harmonizing. Simmons, as Valli, deserves special commendation for achieving the same vocal tone and falsetto as the original singer. Not only are all four mens' voices in sync, but during each performance sequence, their movements are too. The show's small ensemble work tirelessly to portray a multitude of small roles. A particular stand out is Rick Desloge as a very young Joe Pesci, a friend to Valli and DeVito, and the person who introduced them to Bob Gaudio. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for Kevin Patrick Martin, a Rhode Island native and Rhode Island College alum who portrays Norm Waxman and others.
All of the hit songs one would hope to hear are performed, from "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," which was received rapturously by the audience and with a brief mid-show standing ovation.
The musical began on Broadway in 2005, and the projections, used in conjunction with the simple raised walkway set reflect that with mixed results. Sometimes their use was inventive, as when the band performs on The Ed Sullivan Show, and we see them performing in black and white, as it would have looked to television viewers at the time. Other times, when vintage style cartoon images were projected, this was more of a distraction than an enhancement. The numerous costume changes reflect the band's different eras, and different levels of stardom, well (the only slip costume-wise is with Valli's daughter, Francine, whose hoodie would seem more appropriate for the 90s or a later decade).
Although familiarity with the Four Seasons' music will certainly enhance one's enjoyment of the show, no matter what, Jersey Boys is an entertaining evening of theatre.
Jersey Boys runs through May 12th. Tickets may be purchased online at ppacri.org, by phone at (401) 421-2787, or at the PPAC Box Office located at 220 Weybosset Street in downtown Providence.
Photo: Joan Marcus