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Review: JERSEY BOYS at 5th Ave Theatre

Now on stage at the 5th Ave Theatre through February 20th

Review: JERSEY BOYS at 5th Ave Theatre

Friendship, struggles, heartache, and triumph, JERSEY BOYS has it all. The story of four young men from New Jersey that were seeking something beyond the lives their neighborhood afforded, this show takes you through the hills, valleys, and to the mountaintop of success right along with them. And through it all, you are encompassed with the dulcet tones of their distinctive sound and the music that made them legends.

Tommy DeVito is a Jersey boy with equal parts talent and trouble. He attempts to hold a singing group together despite the members being in and out of prison for various petty crimes. After hearing an amazing voice coming from a young teenager, he takes Francesco Castelluccio (soon to change his name to Frankie Valli) under his wings and adds his falsetto to the group. The group also includes bass Nick Massi, and they are searching for their elusive fourth partner. DeVito's buddy introduced them to teen songwriting sensation, Bob Gaudio, and the foursome is set. After some struggles finding a name, and their own sound and style, the group takes off with a series of hits. After hitting it big, the group should have smooth sailing, but DeVito's gambling and personality clashes put the group in a tough situation. The show follows their journey through the break up and personal tragedy to culminate with their triumphant reunion at their induction to the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame.

The show does a remarkable job of painting each member of the Four Seasons with nuance and clarity. It doesn't try to idolize them, but show them warts and all. The audience comes to love them even more because they are not perfect, but perfectly human. DeVito, masterfully played by Devon Goffman, is perhaps the most complicated of them all. His insecurities and inner demons lead him down some dark paths while he continues to be the leader of the group pursuing every opportunity. Goffman gives him heart and depth, showing why the group followed him despite his considerable flaws. Eric Chambliss as Bob Gaudio gives us a clear-headed boy wonder who keeps pulling magic out of his hat. He blends Gaudio's vision with his youthfulness to bring us a complex character with a wonderful voice of his own. Matt Faucher as Nick Massi was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night. His character is the self-proclaimed Ringo of the group, yet he was the glue that kept them together and grounded. Faucher's delivery of one-liners was the best comedy in the show. Jon Hacker portrayed Frankie Valli, no...Jon Hacker was Frankie Valli. Sometimes people are so right for a role that they completely disappear, and Jon Hacker, for all intents and purposes, was not on the stage. There was only Frankie Valli and that voice that takes you back in time and envelopes you with its magic. The other real magic of the night came in their work as an ensemble. I believe these four actors are just as tight as the Four Seasons were themselves.

The night was not without its troubles. It started early when that pesky sound demon reared its ugly head and made the women's lyrics in the opening number incomprehensible. Luckily, the sound issues seemed to be relegated to only when the women were singing. I don't know if it was a mic issue or what, but it happened two other times in the show, always with the women. The result was that it made it hard to connect and care about the characters they played. Samantha Gershman's Mary Delgado was a bright spot, but it would have been nice to hear the women sing as clearly as the men. Luckily (or not so lucky for the women) their singing parts were few and far between.

Despite including more musical numbers than most shows, the pace of the show was quite quick. It moved along nicely, especially with its use of narration to smooth over scene transitions so that there was no wasted time. In fact the narration included some of my favorite parts, especially when Matt Faucher was delivering some inside perspective from Nick Massi's point of view. All in all the show more than does justice telling a great story about great people who overcame great odds. Music connects us to each other and to our own history. A night listening to the music of the Four Seasons is like a walk down memory lane for those who grew up listening to their songs. The nostalgia knob is turned way up high, and perhaps that is why the show has had continued success. We all like to remember a time when we were young and had dreams, and watch those few who were brave enough to make their dreams a reality.

JERSEY BOYS is playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre now through February 20th.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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