BWW REVIEW: “Oh, What a Night!” with JERSEY BOYS!
JERSEY BOYS follows the true story of 1960s group The Four Seasons; Tommy DeVito (Corey Greenan), Bob Gaudio (Eric Chambliss), Nick Massie (Johnathan Cable), and Frankie Valli (Jonny Wexler). This jukebox musical, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, utilizes some of the bands biggest hits to tell the rise and fall of the iconic group of boys from New Jersey; including "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Sherry," "December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)," and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You."
JERSEY BOYS opened on Broadway in 2005 and brought home four Tony awards in 2006, including Best Musical. The show recently closed in 2017, making it the twelfth longest running show on Broadway with 4,642 performances during its run. The show's impressive run in New York and subsequent tours are no surprise because people love this show, this is especially obvious due to the numerous extended applause that occurred throughout the show. This show has some dedicated fans who have seen it numerous times with numerous different companies. It's easy to understand why people keep coming back to the show with the catchy music and compelling rags to riches and back to rags story, this show has something for any generation of fan.
The book by Marshal Brickman and Rick Elice, structures the story of The Four Seasons into chapters where each of band members (Tommy, Bob, Nick, Frankie) tell their perspective of what happens during a particular season (spring, summer, fall, winter) of the year. Breaking the fourth wall, each man brings a different perspective to the events as they unfold and reveal something about themselves and the group during that time in their career.
The show begins in 'spring' with the man who started it all, Tommy DeVito explaining the early days and birth of the group trying to find their place in the music landscape and get out of the old neighborhood. Tommy is a commanding figure who talks fast and moves faster - making deals left and right to get ahead. Greenan does a wonderful job setting the tone for the show and bringing this character to the stage.
As the group hits its height of success, the show shifts to 'summer' and Bob Gaudio takes over as narrator. Bob is young but he's smart, has an eye for business and writes the group their first big hits. The audience watches as the group signs their first record deal to singing on American Bandstand and becoming a bonafide hit. Chambliss' solo of "December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" is breathtaking. He commands the stage throughout the number, and it stands as a highlight for the actor during his performance.
Act 1 sees the rise of the group and Act 2, the demise. Nick Massie takes over as narrator during 'fall' which is the beginning of the end for The Four Seasons and looks at how the group fell apart. Massie is the strong silent type, that is until he breaks down with an expertly delivered monologue filled with comedy and rage by Cable on the towel using habits of one Tommy DeVito over the last ten years as they shared hotel rooms on the road. While the outburst is well played, it signals the beginning of the end with DeVito and Massie eventually leaving the group.
Frankie brings the show home during 'winter' as the foursome has turned into a solo act. Wexler is superb as Valli and its fun to watch him take the character from innocent, trusting young man to a more mature performer that is hardened by life on the road. Even with the hard edges, Wexler maintains an element of the young boy from New Jersey throughout the characters journey. Wexler also has that unique Valli voice down, I applaud with his ability to hit those notes and recreate the iconic tone of Valli's voice.
One thing to note is that this show moves quickly! They talk fast and move through decades of time in a matter of hours. The show goes from the early days of the group to their reunion during their 1990 induction to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The set, designed by Klara Zieglerova, is expertly arranged to keep up with this high-speed show and shifting scenes. A simple scaffolding set up anchors the show throughout with numerous signs and props swiftly moving in and out to re-create locations across the country and across decades. The set seamlessly transforms and moves just as fast as the story and the characters as they change in and out blazers like nobody's business, I lost count of the number of jackets they go through but it's a lot. Shout out to the supporting cast and crew who keep these elements moving so seamlessly.
The show is part concert and part biopic, and perfectly balances both elements through concert sequences and heartfelt moments between characters. For instance, there is a big concert sequence in Act 1 where the audience is treated to the group's first three big hits - "Sherry," "Walk Like A Man," and "Big Girls Don't Cry." Each number received roaring applause from the audience and again you're reminded of the love fans have for this show. There is a nice full circle moment towards the end of Act 1 where you see that even with all their fame they are still the four boys singing under a street lamp in Jersey like they were at the beginning of their career and the beginning of the show, a subtle reminder to not forget where you come from.
This is a great show for those who are already fans and desire to see it again, for fans of the music they heard growing up and want to know more about the men behind the music, or for new generations who haven't discovered this music yet. Be sure to get your tickets for the last two nights of the run in Sioux Falls at The Washington Pavilion. I promise you'll be leaving the theater humming or singing along to these memorable songs whether you were familiar with them before you walked in or discovered them for the first time.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus