Oh, what a night!
“Jersey Boys,” the musical biography of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is in the midst of a two-week run at Blaisdell Concert Hall. It opened Sept. 13 and plays through Sept. 25, after being pushed back a couple of years ago because of the pandemic.
I took in last night’s (Sept. 16) performance; it’s still the best-ever jukebox musical because there’s a valid story with revelations, along with a fistful of No. 1 hits that made Valli and his partners a live-wire act for all seasons. And powerhouse renderings of the tunes that shaped the Seasons.
It’s the first time I’ve seen the show since its October 20O5 debut (it ran through 2017), where it was a huge success thanks to the frequent in-person appearances of Valli, early in the run; he’d pop in at the August Wilson Theatre in New York, to the delight of the producers and fans. Less successful was the film version, which debuted in June 2014, directed by (of all people) Clint Eastwood.
It didn’t occur to me, when the show was new that it took nearly 50 minutes for one of the Four Seasons’ signatures would be sung and performed live. The prelude, to set up the characters and the potential of this yet-to-be-discovered attraction, seemed to stall like a used car. However, when the quartet finally gets all the cylinders going –starting with “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” — the ride was smooth and luxurious.
And let’s be honest: the applause, cheers and hurrahs for these iconic songs, plus the late-in-the-show Valli solo, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” were earnest and genuine. And I was surprised that the enthused and immersed spectators didn’t take up the worship a notch up, by getting up on their feet and gyrating and bouncing to the tempo, like in a rock show.
The key four guys, who were The Four Lovers before they selected and shared the “seasons” with Vivaldi, are Jon Hacker as Valli (sweet and crisp, charming, most effective vocally with his three colleagues), Eric Chambliss as Bob Gaudio (the business mind of the group), Devon Coffman as Tommy DeVito (the bad-boy, trouble-making one) , and Matt Faucher as Nick Massi ( who delivers one of the best lines, referring to himself as a Ringo, like in The Beatles). They sing their expected harmonies with repetitive do-wop choreography perhaps mirroring the act’s stage manner; you might say that this sort of musical form is part imitation of the original figures, with the reproduction of the musical arrangements to capture the moment of rock/pop ecstasy.
Like “Beautiful,” the Carole King musical, “Jersey Boys” knows how to pace with grace; there are ample fully-sung tunes that magnify the magic of their music. Unlike the mediocre Elvis Presley-inspired “All Shook Up,” the Beach Boys tuner “Good Vibrations,” and the Gloria Estefan bio “On Your Feet,” these shows lacked stories with some grit and conflict, so the cut-and-pace, sing-and-dance song performances are difficult to sustain.
Directed by Des McAnuff (also known for directing “The Who’s Tommy” on Broadway) “Jersey” includes the blemishes and the blurs of the Valli tale, exploring a young kid with an unusual falsetto voice, his divorce, a daughter with a drug problem, and in-group challenges like private partnerships and unpaid debts.
The book is by Marshall Brickman and Rick Rice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe.
The score is rich with memorable titles, including “My Eyes Adored You,” “Dawn (Go Away),” “Walk Like a Man,” “Stay,” “Working My Way Back to You,” and “Rag Doll.” Some of the tunes are not Four Seasons hits, but were composed by Gaudio (“Who Wears Short Shorts.,” “Cry for Me,” “I Still Care”) or Crewe (“Silhouettes,” “I Go Ape”).
“Jersey Boys” features a traveling orchestra of eight or nine, performing like a rock band early on and segueing into a pop fixture with brass tooters, bass thumps and riffs that sustain, particularly when the four key voices resonate.
Oh, what a night of flashback memories…
And that’s Show Biz. …
Running time: 2 hours, 40 minute, with intermission.
Playdates: varies, through Sept. 25.
Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com or Blaisdell box office at (808) 768-5252.
Advisory: Contains expletives, so young children should be alerted; facemasks recommended, but not required, due to the pandemic.