If you’re of a certain age, or have listened to an oldies radio station in the last 20 years, there’s a very good chance you know the songs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
The “Jersey Boys” musical covers decades of time from the creation of the music group, their chart topping songs, concert tours, and eventual falling apart. A story that could write itself if it wasn’t also true.
A touring production of the musical just pulled into the Dr. Phillips Center and we were invited to opening night.
Valli was known for his powerful angelic voice and the songs of the Four Seasons speak to a certain type of working class life led many who live in New Jersey, as the original band members did. The group had a sound that was instantly identifiable and all their own.
Part of the enjoyment of the show is discovering just how many songs are part of the fabric of your life that you just forgot about.
The original production of the “Jersey Boys” music debuted on Broadway in 2005 and has been entertaining audiences there and on tour ever since. It says a lot about the production, but also the staying power of the music that help tell the story along the way.
The version that comes to Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center this week is the 13th touring season of the Tony-winning musical. The show does a lot with just a little, and lets the music and the performances carry the show.
Four unique perspectives of original Four Seasons are shared via narratives told by the characters, but the big focus is on Valli.
There is minimal stage production. Quite a bit of the scene is set with minimal props and great lighting design; the band is alternatively on stage and backstage depending on the needs of the song.
A small 18-person cast is put to put to good use with most of them playing multiple roles. I really thought there were twice as many women in the cast as there actually were.
A show about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons would not be enjoyable without a very good Frankie. On this tour Jonny Wexler steps into the role and he’s quite capable of making the audience believe in his Frankie. That doodle can really bop (yes, Wexler was a Doodlebop earlier in his career). While no one can duplicate Valli’s magic pipes, Wexler gets close enough that if you let your imagination go the last step, you’re there.
Corey Greenan plays the wise guy of story Tommy DeVito. Devito helps form the group, gets it some early gigs and then, as he’s a big of a jerk, succumbs to his personal issues. Greenan plays the part so well, he had the audience in the palm of his hand the whole show with just a gesture required to elicit a response.
The group was rounded out by Jonathan Cable as Nick Massi and Eric Chambliss as Bob Gaudio. Both have to carry quite a bit of the musical’s narrative, and while Cable had the audience’s favor right from the start, Chambliss has to work for his rapport, just like his character does with the group. By the time the show really hits its stride, the whole team gels, and the whole theater gets into a groove.
Musical numbers includes several of the group’s hits, such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Oh What A Night,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” and “Working My Way Back To You.”
Our audience was, at times, clapping along, and willing to give a big round of applause when it was deserved. All this added to a bit of concert like atmosphere, which helped add another level of realism to the musical.
Who should go to the show? There are some drug references, sexual situations, and plenty of profanity. So if that offends you, or might be too sensitive for a young one, consider skipping it. It’s also long at 2 hours and 35 minutes.
But if you like musicals, music from the 60s and 70s with that unique Four Seasons sound, even if you don’t remember which songs the Four Seasons sang exactly, then this is the show for you.
Jersey Boys is at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday, November 4, 2018. Tickets start at $39.25 and are available at the venue box office or at DrPhillipsCenter.org.
Disclaimer: CSO received media tickets for review. As always, our writer’s opinions are honest, and their own.
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