November 3, 2014

Jersey Boys Is Fantastic in Fresno!

November 3rd, 2014

Marvelous reviews for JB in Fresno! Check out sneak peeks below: Hayden Milanes recreates Valli’s distinctive falsetto on such hits as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” with startling accuracy and infectious energy. And his performance is almost as good. He turns Valli into a thoroughly likable guy: Loyal to his friends to a fault and dedicated to the craft of music. If “Jersey Boys” is to believed, Valli is a real mensch, to mix up ethnic stereotypes.

Considerably less likable is Tommy DeVito, the defacto early leader of the band and Valli’s boyhood friend. As played by the blustery and charismatic Nicolas Dromard, DeVito is boorish and none-too bright. But there’s still something charming about his tough guy bravado and bluster.

Good too is Drew Seeley as Bob Gaudio, the musical brains behind The Four Seasons. Unlike Valli, DeVito and Nick Massi, Gaudio came from a more middle-class background and is frequently befuddled about all the talk about being loyal to your neighborhood.

Seeley is particularly funny as he vents his exasperation at DeVito when his antics land the band in an Ohio jail. “Unlike you, I don’t have a criminal record,” he bitterly points out to DeVito as he sits on a jail house toilet.

Rounding out the Seasons is Keith Hines as Massi. The actor gets the musical’s best dramatic scene when he finally explodes at the boorish DeVito. You’ll never hog a hotel towel again after hearing his rant. The show wouldn’t work without a strong and sympathetic Frankie, and the gifted Milanes, whose falsetto soars with a growly clarity, finds just the right balance between rough-hewn and silky smooth to make his leading character resonate.

The vocals are terrific all around, and the simple but effective staging — augmented by a strikingly conceived projection design — is first-rate. So, too, is the appealing orchestra, conducted by Ben Hartman, which does much of the hard work of translating The Four Seasons sound to the stage. (While I was nervous that some of the sound levels seemed out of whack in the first scene, I was pleased that any balance problems were smoothly attended to early on.)

In the end, it’s the little moments in “Jersey Boys” that stand out for me. When Frankie sings a plaintive version of “Fallen Angel,” he’s sitting on a bench with his back completely to the audience for the first part of the song. The moment is made all the more powerful. Sometimes the back story makes all the difference.

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