The last time Jersey Boys came to the National Theatre in Washington, DC, in 2009, it was a sellout and a sensation. The touring production is back now for a 10-week run, an unusually long stay for this theater, and it's as sharp and exhilarating as ever, thanks to Des McAnuff's intense direction and Sergio Trujillo's pulsing choreography.
Too often, the jukebox musical format doesn't succeed because the pieces don't fit together: existing songs may feel shoehorned into an unrelated plot. The genius of Jersey Boys is that book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Eliceby using the hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to animate a portrait of the group and its membersnot only make the alchemy work, they make their success look easy.
"Let's face it. We put Jersey on the map," cocky Tommy DeVito (John Gardiner) says as he launches the story of four blue-collar guys who became one of the most popular and best-loved singing groups of the 1960s and 1970s. Brickman and Elice use the "four seasons" name as their narrative hook, beginning with the spring of the group's founding through the summer of success, the fall of hard times, and the winter when the men finally come to terms with each other.
First things first: singly and together, the four leading men are perfect. Joseph Leo Bwarie captures Frankie Valli's ethereal falsetto and compact physicality; Preston Truman Boyd brings a sweetness and innocence to Bob Gaudio; Michael Lomenda captivates as taciturn bass player Nick Massi; and Gardiner swaggers as the man who both founded the group and precipitated its eventual dissolution. And when they sing, the magic begins; the songs are no less effective for being so familiar, and many of them"Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," etc.earn explosive ovations.
Klara Zieglerova's industrial-inspired scenic design uses a chain link wall and metal bridges and staircases to convey the grittiness of working-class New Jersey towns.
If it isn't already evident, it should be noted that Jersey Boys is a hard-edged, foul-mouthed, testosterone-powered show. The 16-member cast includes only three women, whose primary roles are Valli's wife (Kara Tremel), girlfriend (Lauren Decierdo), and both mother and daughter (Denise Payne), but who also present a kaleidoscopic array of girl-group singers, party girls, and other companions of the Four Seasons.
The National Theatre