Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Jersey Boys on Broadway (August Wilson Theater)

Although I was somewhat familiar with some of the songs from Frankie Vallie and The Four Seasons, I was never aware of their true story or their path to rock'n roll fame.

Consequently, I was a little apprehensive when purchasing tickets to the Jersey Boys musical, playing at the August Wilson theater on Broadway. Overall, I enjoyed the performance of Jersey Boys, but it does not fare as well (in stage-work, music, or choreography) when compared to such exceptional musicals as Chicago, Cats, or Fiddler on the Roof.


Plot

The story begins in the future, with a French Rap Star singing "Oh What a Night" in French (Ces Soires-La). This song is intended to showcase the longevity of The Four Seasons' music - as this song becomes a hit in the year 2000, in Paris, long after the Four Seasons have retired.

The story switches back to the past, when Tommy DeVito (played by Matt Bogart), the bad-boy musician and band organizer talks about starting up his band. Although not especially talented as a musician, he has a gift for recognizing talent and quickly discovers Frankie Valli - the young man with a beautiful voice. Tommy tries to start a band with Frankie and Nick, but there is always something missing (lack of good, original songwriting). During this time, Tommy gets involved in some petty crimes and is eventually sent to prison (while also almost ensnaring Frankie), who is unaware of Tommy's schemes.

When Tommy returns from prison, their group is not able to book solid gigs around town, until one of their friends introduce them to Bob Crewe - a teenage pop star who just penned a hit "(Who Wears) Short Shorts". The four musicians struggle to record a hit song, but eventually succeed with the well-known  "Sherry" renaming themselves as "The Four Seasons".


The Four Seasons quickly follow up with "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man". They start touring, but the difficulties of non-stop touring lifestyle takes a tall on everyone. Frankie rarely sees his wife Mary Delgado and his daughter. While on the road, Frankie gets involved with another woman. In general, the Four Seasons don't handle fame very well. Tommy gets into heavy gambling and eventually gets deep into debt with the mob. Nick Massi also quits the band at this time, being tired of being the "Ringo Starr" of the Four Seasons. He does not relish being the unimportant one in the group. The group is now down to two musicians Frankie and Bob.

Being New Jersey Boys, who always take care of each other, Bob Crewe and Frankie decide to pay off Tommy's debts (which run in to $500,000). They decide to take ownership all Four Seasons financial affairs and will no longer be managed by Tommy. This is a huge burden on their finances, but they succeed in the long run. Due to his debts, Tommy is forced to move and live in Las Vegas.

Eventually, Bob decided that he does not like the "touring" lifestyle and recommends that Frankie focuses on his sole singing career while he (Bob) composes songs for Frankie. They handshake on this partnership  and from that point on Frankie tours on his own (as Frankie and the Four Seasons), without any of the original founders.

Frankie and a new band tour around, recording many new songs. However. there is a major tragedy, as Frankie's daughter overdoses on drugs and Frankie feels guilty for not being there for her.


But all is not lost. Eventually, the Four Seasons are reunited and get inducted into the Rock'n Roll hall of fame.

Mark Ballas, who plays Frankie Valli, does a credible job of singing and is enjoyable to watch.

Cast
  • Frankie Valli - Mark Ballas (the singer with the angel voice)
  • Nick Massi - Matt Bogart (self-described Ringo Starr)
  • Tommy DeVito - Nicolas Dromard (the bad boy organizer)
  • Bob Crewe - Peter Gregus (the genius songwriter)
  • Mary Delgado - Kara Tremel (Frankie's wife)
Musical Numbers

Act I
  • "Ces Soires-La (Oh What a Night)" - French Rap Star
  • "Silhouettes" 
  • "You're the Apple of My Eye"
  • "I Can't Give You Anything but Love"
  • "Earth Angel"
  • "Sunday Kind of Love"
  • "My Mother's Eyes"
  • " I Go Ape" - The Four Lovers
  • "(Who Wears) Short Shorts" - The Royals Teens
  • "I'm in the mood for Love/Moody's Mood for Love" - Frankie Valli
  • "Cry for Me"
  • "An Angel Cried"
  • "I Still Care"
  • "Trance"
  • "Sherry"
  • "Big Girls Don't Cry"
  • "Walk Like a Man"
  • "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)"
  • "My Boyfriends Back"
  • "My Eyes Adored you"
  • "Dawn (Go Away)"
  • "Walk Like a Man"
Act II
  • "Big Man in Town" - The Four Seasons
  • "Beggin" - Four Seasons
  • "Stay" - Four Seasons
  • "Let's Hang On (To What We've Got)" - The Four Seasons
  • "Opus 17 (Don't Worry About Me)" - The Four Seasons
  • "Bye Bye Baby" - The Four Seasons
  • "C'mon Marianne" - The Four Seasons
  • "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" - The Four Seasons
  • "Working My Way Back to You" - The Four Seasons
  • "Fallen Angel" - Frankie Valli - The Four Seasons
  • "Rag Doll" - The Four Seasons - The Four Seasons
  • "Who Loves You" - The Four Seasons



Jersey Boys Report Card
Positives
  • Mark Brallas as Frankie Vallie does a believable job singing song with that "Frankie Vallie & The Four Seasons" sound
  • The show packs a lot of energy and enthusiasm
Negatives
  • Staging with metal prison bars is not the most attractive
  • Most of the dancing choreography is very rudimentary
  • The story is very one dimensional, really all about success in music business and the pressure of touring on the road

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