JERSEY BOYSBook by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
AT&T Performing Arts Center
Directed by Des McAnuff
Music Supervision, Vocal/Dance Arrangements and Incidental Music – Ron Melrose Choreography – Sergio Trujillo
Scenic Design – Klara Zieglerova
Costume Design – Jess Goldstein
Lighting Design – Howell Binkley
Sound Design – Steve Canyon Kennedy
Projection Design – Michael Clark
Wig and Hair Design – Charles G. LaPointe
Fight Director – Steve Rankin
Production Supervisor – Richard Hester
Orchestrations – Steve Orich
Music Coordinator – John Miller
Music Director – Michael Gonzalez
Production Stage Manager – Zachary Tucker
CAST (in alphabetical order)
Bob Gaudio – Tommaso Antico
Church Lady, Angel, Lorraine, Miss Frankie Nolan, Mother, and others – Tristen Buettel
Joey, French Rap Star, Detective One, Officer Petrillo, Hall Miller, and others – Sean Burns
Bob Crewe, Donnie, Accountant, Finney, and others – Wade Dooley
Gyp DeCarlo, Nick DeVito, Billy Dixon, Charlie Calello, and others – Todd DuBail
Tommy DeVito – Corey Greenan
Stosh, Norman Waxman, Detective Two, Hank Majewski, and others – Kevin Patrick Martin
Mary Delgado, Nick’s Date, Angel, and others – Michelle Rombola
Angel, Francine, and others – Jenna Nicole Schoen
Nick Massi – Chris Stevens
Frankie Valli – Jonny Wexler
Reviewed Performance: 5/22/2018
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The play relies upon fun and joyous performances of the Four Seasons’ foot-tapping hits, and amplifies our appreciation of the music, and the band, by showing us their back story. Each member of the original Four Seasons, as played by outstanding musical theater veterans, speaks directly to us, and at times audience applause becomes part of the play-within-a-play reaction. The breaking of the fourth wall is markedly successful here; as fans of the music, we are a part of the story. In addition to the musical hits, which keep coming, we learn what the success of this music means to the band members, and what it took to build the Four Seasons. We, just ordinary people enjoying their music, were their reward.
The play is structured in four parts, and each season of the year is assigned a narrator: self-proclaimed founder and mob-indebted leader Tommy DeVito (Corey Greenan) is Spring, composer Bob Gaudio (Tommaso Antico) is Summer, bass singer and vocal arranger Nick Massi (Chris Stevens) is Fall, and the famed falsetto Frankie Valli (Jonny Wexlar) is Winter.
We first hear from the charismatic Tommy DeVito, a true alpha male (I won’t say dog because his body language is more like a bull about to charge). He unapologetically outlines his early criminal exploits. He put the group together, but was not what one would call an entirely good influence. It is to Greenan’s great credit that he portrays such a flawed character as so charming; I know I shouldn’t like the guy, but I do anyway. It’s a phenomenal performance.
Next up as our narrator is Bobby Gaudio, the brains of the operation (if not the man actually in charge). In a mobbed-up Jersey dive bar, Bobby quotes T. S. Eliot. It’s adorable. Gaudio is also the narrator for the most hilarious recreation of a song’s genesis that I have ever seen: I won’t be able to hear “Oh What a Night” again without cracking up. I also couldn’t get enough of Antico’s gorgeous voice.
As Nick Massi, Stevens delivers comic relief during the group’s sit down for a mediation with a loan shark. “The man isn’t properly socialized,” Nick hilariously complains about Tommy. As Nick, Stevens also performs a beautiful and funny final explanation of Nick’s decision vis-à-vis the group.
As Frankie Valli, Wexlar transitions from a young innocent to a loyal soldier and, ultimately, a broken-hearted father. It is a thoroughly engaging performance. Toward the end, when Wexlar sings “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” – after a funny build-up – Wexlar really has become Frankie Valli, for all that the audience has come to love him.
The build-up to this hit is one of several amusing illustrations of the idiocy and general unpleasantness of the music industry (e.g., “This is the music business; these guys don’t have mothers.”).
While the play acknowledges seedy mob connections and heart breaks, it more frequently packs a lot of laughs in the course of explaining the Four Seasons’ trajectory from their hard scrabble Jersey childhood to stardom. Early on, Frankie’s first wife Mary (Michelle Rombola) explained to him why his original idea for a stage name, Vally with a “Y”, sucks: “Y is a bull___ letter. … Is it a vowel or a consonant?” All good Italian names end with a vowel (e.g., pizza).
The video imagery on the set’s second story frequently changes, setting the stage for gritty New Jersey, highlighting the action with Lichtenstein style cartoons, telecasting Four Season performances as seen on black-and-white television, and otherwise cueing varying locations, such as nightclubs. One such locale was named the Four Seasons, ending an ongoing debate about what they should be called. “It’s a sign, Tommy.”
As the music is seamlessly integrated into the performance, the choreography is as well. The band’s perfectly timed motions are both a visual accompaniment to the musical beat and the embodiment of a theme – that these four individuals are working in sync, the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The numerous period costumes are also a satisfying visual feast.
The joy of the music, created by these performers, reached everyone. The audience is smiling, clapping, and on their feet at the end. I couldn’t see anyone at the Winspear Opera House not smiling. And had I, I would have wondered about their mental health. If you don’t feel happy after seeing this show, then you need antidepressants.
The Story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
Winspear Opera House
May 22 through 27, 2018 (5/23-24 at 7:30 p.m.; 5/25 at 8:00 p.m.; 5/26 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; 5/27 at 1:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.)
2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
For information and Tickets call 214 880-0202 or go to http://www.attpac.org/.