May 7, 2006

Hits Explode at Jersey Boys

May 7th, 2006

In today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, film critic Ed Blank talks about his recent Broadway experience seeing a very enthusiastic audience at the smash hit musical Jersey Boys.

Blank notes that the first 45 minutes of Jersey Boys sketch the genesis of a Joisey pop singing group in mid to late 1950s that under several names and with various combinations of guys plays local clubs doing cover versions of hits by other groups, including “Earth Angel” and “Sunday Kind of Love.” He talks about the soon-to-be Four Seasons, comprised of the erratic, egotistical Tommy DeVito (Christian Hoff), who finds this kid — this Francis Castelluccio, who’s singing with good falsetto pipes under the name Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young). They hook up with Nick Massi (J. Robert Spencer) and singer-songwriter Bob Gaudio (Daniel Reichard). By the show’s 46-minute point, they’re calling themselves the Four Seasons.

Suddenly the volume cranks up, and the Four Seasons step out in red blazers and cut loose with “Sherry,” the group’s first No. 1 hit and million seller. The audience erupts with such euphoric clapping and whistling that some spectacular, shared emotional buzz spills off the stage and washes up and across the whole theater. The buzz continues as the group follows up with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man.” in quick succession.

Block notes that the musical’s book, a collaboration by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, is the dicier part of the equation, as the writing of librettos always is. It condenses so much narrative into so little time that dramatic developments — courtships, divorces, dope, feuds, police hassles, even a cameo appearance by clear plastic seat covers — occur in such rapid succession that it’s like the Cliff’s Notes version of “The Brothers Karamazov.”

However, Blank said you can cut the show slack because the music is so infectious. Jersey Boys plays to our eagerness to re-experience the music exactly as it is etched in our nostalgic psyches.

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