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Jersey Hits Motown Review - "The Boys Are Back In Town"

By Randy Falsetta

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Without yet experiencing the city’s first significant snowfall, the Fisher Theatre in downtown Detroit, Michigan eloquently glistened as it welcomed back to its stage the hit Broadway musical “Jersey Boys – The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons”. Within a ‘Motown minute’, the Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award Winning Best Musical rediscovered the city’s passion for live theatre performances. With the original Hitsville U.S.A. building located hauntingly nearby, the collective sounds of The Four Tops, The Supremes and The Temptations seemed to still somehow resonate through the slight chill in the evening air. 

Scored brilliantly by Bob Gaudio along with lyricist Bob Crewe, the documentary-style musical follows the rags-to-riches tale of how four New Jersey youths propelled themselves through a relentless music industry. This Italian-American quartet from Newark known as The Four Seasons, surprisingly overcame life’s misfortunes and released a slew of #1 songs in the early 60’s to become one of the greatest pop music sensations in history. Unblemished by the powerful British Invasion of 1964, the group catapulted to stardom as a result of a hand-shake musical agreement between Gaudio and Valli.

Opening on Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre to critical acclaim in November of 2005, “Jersey Boys” continues to break house records as it “doo-wops” its way through North America supporting its US national tour. With six other current productions running in New York, Las Vegas, London, Australia, Singapore and South Africa, “Jersey Boys” again made its way to Detroit and is currently performing throughout the holiday season from December 12, 2012 to January 6, 2013.

Passionate in its delivery, its four key characters easily related to the Baby Boomer Generation in attendance. John Gardiner convincingly captured the essence of founding Four Seasons member Tommy DeVito as his brawny, rebellious spirit dominated the stage. Occasionally comical, his love for women and gambling eventually lead him to the bitter hands of the mob who forced his departure from the group as the remaining members struggled to pay down his acquired debt. 

Nick Cosgrove portrayed the often shy and unsure Frankie Valli whose high tenor voice charmed a nation. His failed relationship attempts did not diminish his quest to chase ‘the song’, as his unmistakeable falsetto gripped the attention of gifted songwriter/ keyboardist Bob Gaudio, movingly played by Miles Jacoby. With their bond now permanently sealed, an enraged and resentful DeVito continued down his road to nearly bankrupting the band.

Returning cast member Michael Lomenda supplied the low baritone voice of Nick Massi who began singing pop songs under a street lamp alongside Valli and DeVito. Coining himself as the “Ringo” of the group, Massi was responsible for shaping the vocal arrangements which set The Four Seasons’ style of harmony apart from other pop groups of their era. Strikingly impressive was Lomenda’s ability to mock intricate bass lines while singing harmony and moving to highly synchronized and complicated choreography.

The show was energetic and fast-paced. We were captivated throughout Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall; the four acts which allowed a brief intermission at its midpoint. The audience was delighted as they witnessed the birth of the group’s classics “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like A Man”, “Sherry” and the unforgettable “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”. This was by far the highlight of the evening. To not only hear, but to understand the creation of a soundtrack for a generation was every fan’s dream. Dazzling the crowd further was the band’s cleverly re-enacted performance on The Ed Sullivan Show where live video scenes hovered alongside actual footage from their historic appearance in 1962. With the show’s finale of the band’s induction into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the four original members ultimately reunited and independently reflected on their cavalcade of life events which lead them through their rise to stardom. “You ask four guys, you get four different answers”, the musical beckons. 

With another stellar cast and production, “Jersey Boys” will no doubt continue its reign over the Metro Detroit area as a Motor City favourite for years to come. So relive the sound of the 60’s while it still resonates inside the walls of the beautiful Fisher Theatre and all its splendour. “Oh, What a Night” you’ll have indeed!

Published on Dec 17, 2012

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