National Tour of Jersey Boys strikes Solid Gold at the 5th Avenue Theatre
Also see David's review of Ham for the Holidays: Swine, Women & Song
Two years after it took Broadway by storm, winning audience and critical acclaim plus a Best Musical Tony Award, Seattle is receiving a holiday timed gift of the national touring company of Jersey Boys, the Four Seasons bio-musical. Booked for an unusually long local run at the 5th Avenue Theatre, it seems likely there will be few seats to be had, particularly as the show tickets are less pricey than they would be in New York, and the show is as solid a road company as I have seen come to the Puget Sound in recent years.
The songs by composer Bob Gaudio and lyricist Bob Crewe are virtually pre-sold to a large percentage of the audience who have been a part of the fan base for Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. But it is the book by Academy Award winner (and frequent Woody Allen collaborator) Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice that really takes the show out of the realm of the so-called jukebox musicals, as they let each of the original Jersey boys take a hand in telling the rags to riches tale from their own perspective. Director Des McAnuff surpasses his skillful work on such hits as Tommy and the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying making sure that the potential for cliché scenes and portrayals is kept at a minimum, and pacing the show with a relentless yet not exhausting drive. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo's seemingly non-stop choreography treads territory similar to what Michael Bennett did on the original Dreamgirls, but that is exactly what is needed. Still, if you don't have the right four guys, this show would be all glitz with a hollow center, and that is anything but the case here.
Deven May has the juiciest role, that of wise guy Tommy DeVito who really put the original foursome together. May is extremely funny, charismatic, vocally powerful and likable as he plays out his character's downward spiral due to poor money handling and mob affiliations. Christopher Kale Jones has the vocal prowess to hit those unearthly high falsetto notes of Valli's, and he conveys the selfless decency that led to him mopping up the mess made by DeVito's debts. Erich Bergen is winning and likable as composer Gaudio, who never really wanted to perform, and Erik Bates adroitly rounds out the foursome as Nick Massi, a sort of likable sad sack, and his speech about the horrors of rooming with Mays' DeVito over the years is possibly the evening's funniest moment. All four actors are triple threats and re-create the Four Seasons song catalogue from the early hits like "Sherry," "Walk Like A Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" to latter day chart toppers such as "My Eyes Adored You" and "Can't Take My Eyes off of You" with great expertise.
Though a large team of actor/singer/dancers are assets to the production, the only other performance to register strongly is John Altieri's fey and fabulous turn as record producer/lyricist Bob Crewe. And there is a fun cameo role for the Boys' Newark buddy Joe Pesci (yes the Lethal Weapon Joe Pesci), played by Courter Simmons. The women in the Jersey Boys' lives may have had stories of their own to tell, but this show was clearly not thought to be the place to tell them.
The visual design is stellar in every department, and the orchestrations by Steve Orich soar and embellish the Four Season originals. It is not hard to see Jersey Boys going on to become a major hit film. The stage show is so cinematic that it seems unlikely that Hollywood won't see the inherent possibilities of a film adaptation. But they need to make sure they have four Jersey Boys up to the task. There are four on the 5th Avenue stage who certainly fill the bill.
Jersey Boysruns through January 12, 2008 at the 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Ave., in downtown Seattle. For more information ago on-line at www.5thavenuetheatre.org.