I sat mesmerized the other night by the seamless affirmation of the American dream called “Jersey Boys” – and this was my third outing with the show.
The national tour cast, settled into the Forrest Theatre for an extended run, has a tremendous chemistry. The show itself pops, from the first scenes in which these Jersey Boys are scrappy kids on North Jersey streets to the last, after life has taken them to astounding peaks and delivered some outrageous blows.
Highs and lows, and isn’t that pretty much the way life is — with or without the hit records, millions of dollars and fan worship that Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons earned with the forces of their talents, plus luck and the right time? That’s why “Jersey Boys,” their story, works so well: These celebrities have the everyday nicks and bruises of real people.
These particular real people are indelible in an American generation’s history. For many of us, their songs – “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” Sherry,” “Dawn (Go Away),” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” to name only a few – are the sounds and the beat of our youth. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice collaborated on the show’s fast-moving book that puts us in constant motion with the Four Seasons, from bowling alleys to back-rooms, from major arenas to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Their tale is romanticized, of course – this is a stage musical. Even so, if you had to create The Four Seasons’ story from whole cloth, it would probably seem synthetic, yet every odd plot point in the show is true, in a street-smart world where a deal made on a handshake is a Krazy-Glued trust.
Before they reached the ages of 30, the Four Seasons had sold 175 million records. “Jersey Boys” has snippets or more of 33 of the songs on those records, and that doesn’t even begin to cover all the hits. That music is mostly by composer Bob Gaudio, who was one of the performing quartert, and lyricist Bob Crewe, their record producer. It ingeniously ties the show’s story together – and in this production, is perfectly rendered and great to hear again.
Gaudio was a hit-song geyser; his first — at age 15, before he even met Frankie Valli — was “Who Wears Short Shorts.” He’s played by Jason Kappus, who narrates much of the show and bears an uncanny resemblance to the real Gaudio. Crewe is portrayed by Barry Anderson. One of the original Four Seasons – the quiet, bass-voiced Nick Massi, is played by Brandon Andrus, born in Willingboro and raised in Langhorne. All three are veterans of the tour and performed the last time the show was here, two years ago.
The group’s founder, the brash and careless Tommy DeVito, is played by Nicolas Dromard, and lead singer Frankie Valli, is the boyish, deep-eyed Nick Cosgrove, who brings a brooding vulnerability to the role and sings Valli’s trademark falsetto beautifully. (Much of the main cast changes in matinees, and will change for holidays.)
The guys also nail the stylized moves by choreographer Sergio Trujillo, who’s given them the sort of steps and body language that rock groups might wish they had in the actual ’60s and ’70s. The entire enterprise is delightful. As the Jersey Boys themselves might say, “oh, what a night.”
“Jersey Boys” runs through Jan. 5 at the Forrest Theater, on Walnut Street between 11th and 12th Streets. 800-447-7400 or www.forrest-theatre.com.