Hearing the rave reviews my friends shared with me about past performances, JERSEY BOYS had performed across America since 2005, I felt somewhat deprived until the show returned to Chicago for a nine-week run, until June 3. And now, when it was my turn to finally see the show, when the orchestra began a medley of a few of their multi-million dollar hit songs, I was in the mood to exclaim “Oh What a Night” since this was the most enjoyable Broadway in Chicago experience I have had recently.
This is the story of how a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the Jersey tracks, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, turned life around to become one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all times. The excellent quartet and the talented ensemble sang and danced their hearts out at the Bank of America Theatre at 18 West Monroe Street.
Of course, their success wasn’t all smooth sailing. Before and during their careers, there were bouts of mob friendships, loansharking and prison (Tommy Devito, played brilliantly by John Gardiner) plus band breakups and bumpy roads to stardom. Their devotion to reaching musical stardom and the scores of musical hits that Bob Gaudio (the affable Preston Truman Boyd) wrote with producer/lyricist, Bob Crewe, eventually led them to induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
We wholeheartedly loved Franki Valli, Joseph Leo Bwarie, who sang the lead brilliantly with so many high notes that gave us our own falsetto “highs” throughout the performance. He has toured with the show
for nearly four years in over 40 cities, and he puts his ‘all’ into every show he does.
Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) is terrific as an affable, faithful but sometimes clueless member of the group who doesn’t make waves but sides with DeVito when the going gets tough and rough. He eventually leaves the group and is also the only member of the group to pass on, a few years ago
This nostalgic journey down rock and roll memory lane contains the hits that resonate with a mixed audience of young, middle-aged and older men and women, who adored it based on the applause and standing ovations. It’s hard to choose a favorite from the 33 songs in the show (including Oh, What a Night; Sherry; Big Girls Don’t Cry; Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got); Dawn; Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, for starters).
Accolades go to director Des McAnuff, choreographer Sergio Trujillo, set designer Klara Zieglerova, lighting designer Howell Binkley, Jess Goldstein’s costumes, sound designer Steve Canyon Kennedy, and projection designer Michael Clark.
Of course, the book created by Tony Award-winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice is the ultimate reason this storyline vividly captures The Four Seasons’ ups and downs with humor, heavy dramatic scenes, and engrossing narration by each of the singers who describe his take on what really happened
during their careers.
For a matinee or evening of sheer joy and happiness, definitely see Jersey Boys. Tickets are available at all Broadway in Chicago Box Offices (www.BroadwayinChicago.com)or www.JerseyBoysTour.com and all Ticketmaster locations. The Broadway in Chicago Ticket Line can be reached
Photo credit-Joan Marcus