Review: JERSEY BOYS at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

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That roar you hear every night at around 10:30 is not the wind. It's the crowds cheering the new Canadian cast of Jersey Boys at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

This Tony-award winning musical sent it's touring cast here last August but demand was so great that when that cast moved on to their next engagement, they were replaced by a mostly Canadian company who elevate this quintessentially American show into the stratosphere.

Heading the new cast is Shaw Festival veteran Jeff Madden in a role he was practically born to play. His Frankie Valli rides a roller coaster of emotions making every single moment resonate. Then there's his voice. Madden's performance of the show stopping "Can't Take My eyes Off You" late in the second act is electrifying.

The lone holdover from the previous cast is Jeremy Kushnier as the conniving Tommy DeVito. Kushnier has addend many subtle nuances to the role that enrich his performance and make the character more multi-dimensional.

As the last minute recruit to the cast Quinn VanAntwerp impresses with his rock solid performance as songwriter Bob Gaudio.  Here is a role that lacks the flashiness of Frankie Valli's vocals and the simmering anger of Tommy DeVito. Gaudio wasn't in fact a "Jersey" boy, having been born in the The Bronx, New York. That kind of quiet outsider character doesn't often make for an interesting role, but VanAntwerp relishes the contrast and makes Guadio a multi-faceted character. It also helps that he too possesses a great set of pipes.

That leaves us with the fourth member of the quartet, bass player Nick Massi. The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice doesn't devote much time to Massi and we learn less about him than the others. It is to Michael Lomenda's credit that he makes the most of his scenes, particularly a second act outburst when Massi explodes his bottled up rage at DeVito.  

Shawn Wright has a field day as the flamboyant lyric writer and record producer Bob Crewe, and Bryan Hindle gives a bouncing puppy dog performance as the young Joe Pesci. For a show so focussed on the boys, the girls don't get much stage time but Jenny Lee Stern is a properly tart - and I do mean tart - Mary Delgado.

 The staging by Des McAnuff remains crisp and swift moving, and the cast execute Sergio Trujillo's period choreography with panache. Looks like the Jersey Boys are going to hanging around Toronto for a long long time.

Jersey Boys plays at the Toronto Centre For the Arts Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8PM with 2PM matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. (Note: at the Wednesday and Saturday matinees Adrian Marchuk plays the role of Frankie Valli.) Tickets start from $35 with premium seating available. Call 416-644-3665, or visit www.JerseyBoysToronto.com.



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From This Author Mark Andrew Lawrence

Mark Andrew Lawrence began his broadcasting career as music director for St. Catharines radio station CHRE. After six years there and eight years at classical (read more...)