May 21, 2006

Jersey Boys—The Slickest Rock Musical–EVER!!

May 21st, 2006’s Theater Writer Jack Zink reports that the shows have all opened, the Tony Award nominations are out, and Broadway has a neck-and-neck competition for its most-watched race. The Drowsy Chaperone, a tongue-in-cheek homage to old-fashioned musicals, has the lead in nominations but not necessarily the count against the slickest rock musical ever, Jersey Boys.

The two shows have split top awards already, Chaperone chosen Best Musical by The New York Drama Critics Circle, while Jersey Boys got the nod from both The Drama League and the Outer Critics Circle. In the Tony race, they also have some respectable competition in The Color Purple, especially in acting and writing categories.

Here’s what Zink has to say about Jersey Boys:

Here’s a jukebox musical that sheds formula and creates its own genre: a rockumentary with a full complement of drama.

For investors, it’s also nice to have a pre-sold musical score, courtesy of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. A recent matinee crowd was clapping along to the opening “Oh, What a Night” within three bars.

Bob Gaudio’s songbook isn’t locked in a golden-oldies framework, as the musical’s story by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice attests. More than a fawning tribute, Jersey Boys is musical theater where “Forever Plaid” meets “The Sopranos”.

The show also reaches out via Steve Orich’s arrangements and a striking quartet that portrays the group vocally and dramatically. John Lloyd Young, seen in Theodore Bikel’s shadow in The Chosen last year at Miami’s Coconut Grove Playhouse, makes a stunning Broadway debut as Valli. Yet he never steps entirely out front of the ensemble: Christian Hoff as punky Tommy De Vito, Daniel Reichard as Gaudio, and J. Robert Spencer as quiet basso Nick Massi.

The musical follows the group’s story, as told in various sequences by each member of the group. Director Des McAnuff, credited with establishing rock’s permanent Broadway beachhead with The Who’s Tommy in the early ’90s, is now helping to move it front and center.

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