August 9, 2012

Jersey Boys First National Tour–Perfection in Portland, Part One!

August 9th, 2012

JB Portland

JERSEY BOYS First National Tour: Keller Auditorium, July 18, 2012

Summers in Portland…Okay, I won’t start changing JERSEY BOYS lines…but summers in Portland are always lovely–escaping from the Vegas heat, enjoying the nice hikes, lovely shops and restaurants. But last month was the best time the JBB Tech Half and I have ever had in one of our favorite West Coast cities–for the opening night of the JERSEY BOYS first national tour production at the Keller Auditorium!

Back to JERSEY BOYS’ lines, the JB first national tour company DELIVERED!! The whole place came apart….and the thunderous applause and the standing ovations were–ubiquitous!!

There seemed to be a “buzz” in the audience: Was it an opening night buzz? Was it the fact that Portland audiences have never had the pleasure of seeing this award-winning show in their lovely city before?

When ”Ces Soirées-là” began, some of the audience members looked puzzled, while others immediately started bopping in their seats. Of course, I chuckled to myself, since most of the audience had no idea that this song was number one in Paris for ten weeks ;-) !

When the handsome trio appeared, they were greeted by immediate applause and they couldn’t help but be mesmerized when John Gardiner (Tommy DeVito) told them, “That’s our song…” As Tommy, Gardiner’s smashing good looks, swagger, and the three C’s: charm, charisma, and confidence got the audience’s attention. He had a story to tell! Along with the three above C’s, he had another one: a ton of chutzpah that made him a perfect fit as the fast-talking founder of group! As Tommy’s life unraveled, Gardiner did an awesome job taking the audience on a tumultous rollercoaster ride filled with anger, jealousy, and telling it his way at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.

What can I say about Joseph Leo Bwarie’s performance that hasn’t been said in so many raves by both critics and fans over the last four years? It’s hard to believe that this is the first time the Tech Half and I have had the opportunity to see JLB and truth be told–What took us so long? As Frankie, he was spectacular–first as the young, rather shy kid who acted surprised when Tommy invited him on stage for that very first time. After listening to JLB’s solo CD, “Nothin’ But Love,” I knew his voice was going to be magnificent–but his rendition of “Moody’s Mood For Love” was off the charts! As the kid became a superstar with the Big 3, the audience was in awe of his flawless falsetto and when he performed “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” the extended applause could have been heard in Seattle! As an actor, Joe channeled the determination, the success, the conflict, and the heartbreak that Valli had experienced through his lifetime and what stuck with me was his incredibly loyalty and commitment as a true Jersey boy from “the old school” with a heart! Cliché as it might sound, there was not a dry eye in the house after JLB’s “Fallen Angel”! In fact, the lady next to me was so moved that her tears continued through “Rag Doll”!

Preston Truman Boyd’s youthfulness and appeal on the stage as the musical wonder kid Bob Gaudio eye-catching! The towering young, young…man looked rather intimidated, yet intrigued with his new “older brothers” at first. When he went over to the piano and played that “new one,” and the group’s sound came together for that very first time, the audience went absolutely insane! Preston’s vocals on “Cry For Me” and his “initiation” during “Oh, What A Night” were simply superb! It’s no exaggeration that the audience could see Preston “grow up” as the young genius as the tension between him and Tommy escalated as the group’s leadership shifted. Simply loved seeing the kid who sings like an angel (Bwarie) and “Bobby Businessman” (Boyd) follow their music dreams, weather the storms, create the partnership with a handshake, and maintain a friendship that stood the test of time. Priceless!

It was fantastic to see Michael Lomenda in the Nick Massi role again. Just like in Toronto, Michael was spot-on as the enigmatic Nicky with his mannerisms, his quirkiness, and his extraordinary bass vocals that made me think back to the original Massi’s wonderful sound! But, it wasn’t just a repeat of his Toronto performance: Michael seems to have grown even deeper into the Nicky role in the national tour–with his quietness in Act One to his explosive sit-down scene when he finally tells his side of the story! At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, his “and you’re Ringo” line was one of the most memorable show-stoppers of the evening.

As Frankie Valli says, “The road is the road.” As actors who are on the road, these guys are living a life similar to the men that they are portraying–and the chemistry, camaraderie, musical passion, and the character depth of the quartet up on that stage was electrifying!

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