You might be inclined to call this a "jukebox musical" a la Mama Mia! or Movin' Out. Usually Broadway producers take a compilation of well-known hits sure to be popular with the theatregoing crowd and then pour over some semblance of a sweet and sticky plot to hold it all together. And let's not be mistaken: the hits are there (and kickin', might I add) and the audience is all smiles and delighted giggles when we hear them.
But this musical is much more than its hits. Jersey Boys is a compelling story in itself, a story which doesn't sugar-coat the price a quick rise to stardom costs the families and communities those newly-born stars leave behind. It's also a bit of a history lesson, a VH1 "Behind the Music" with some additional flourishes and personal biases in the form of our less-than-trustworthy storyteller and band member Tommy DeVito (Colby Foytik), as well as a tribute to the incarnation of that unique musical sound those rough-and-ready boys from Jersey brought us.
The production comes as slick as the pomade, thanks to the capable touring cast and crew we see up on Popejoy stage. The numerous flies, set pieces, instruments, projections and various company members move in and out seamlessly and magically, as one would expect from any professional touring show. And yet, you never feel like they've simply thrown lots of money into the production design elements to achieve visual spectacle (a feeling I often experience for many touring musical productions). The show visually maintains a working class and darker vibe. Klara Zieglerova's minimalist all-metal scenic design almost reminds me of that grungy, cold kind of look that musical-theatre-goers have come to associate with Rent.
The performances of the four leading roles Frankie Valli (Brad Weinstock), Tommy DeVito (Colby Foytik), Nick Massi (Brandon Andrus) and Bob Gaudio (Jason Kappus) are all stellar. Weinstock's pipes are particularly killer. When he croons "I'm in the Mood for Love," it becomes apparent that his swoon-worthy falsetto can indeed compete with the original. Andrus' quiet and calculated performance of Nick, the "Ringo" of the foursome, is perhaps the most relatable and comedic (in an understated way), which only makes his insane outburst at Tommy's usage of hotel towels in act two all the more hilarious.
All in all, these Jersey Boys offer a satisfying, foot-tapping, and enjoyable way to spend a night at the theatre. If they do happen to wear the label "jukebox musical" across their chests, they wear it well; in fact, it's never looked better.
Jersey Boys book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, Music by Bob Gaudio, Lyrics by Bob Crewe. This production is under the direction of Des McAnuff.
The touring production runs through June 2nd at Popejoy Hall. Tickets are $27.50 - $145.00 and can be purchased online at www.unmtickets.com. For more information on the tour, please visit www.jerseyboysinfo.com/tour.