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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Jersey Boys

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 Elice—by using the hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to animate a portrait of the group and its members—not 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
Jersey Boys
November 10th - January 7th, 2012
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
Bob Gaudio: Preston Truman Boyd
Frankie Valli: Joseph Leo Bwarie/John Michael Dias at some performances
Church Lady, Angel, Lorraine, and others: Lauren Decierdo
Joey, Recording Studio Engineer, and others: Frankie J. Galasso
Tommy DeVito: John Gardiner
Bob Crewe and others: Jonathan Hadley
Nick DeVito, Stosh, Norman Waxman, Charlie Calello, and others: Buck Hujabre
Nick Massi: Michael Lomenda
Frankie's Mother, Nick's Date, Miss Frankie Nolan, Bob's Party Girl, Angel, Francine, and others: Denise Payne
Detective Two, Billy Dixon, and others: Timothy Quinlan
Gyp DeCarlo and others: Joseph Siravo
Mary Delgado, Angel, and others: Kara Tremel
French Rap Star, Detective One, Hal Miller, Barry Belson, Police Officer, Davis, and others: Donald Webber Jr.
Officer Petrillo, Hank Majewski, Crewe's PA, Accountant, Joe Long, and others: Kevin Worley
Thugs: Brian Silverman, Mark Verdino
Directed by Des McAnuff
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
Music Direction, Vocal Arrangements, and Incidental Music by Ron Melrose
The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 1-800-447-7400 or www.telecharge.com
For more information about the tour, visit www.jerseyboysinfo.com/tour/


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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