November 16, 2005

Jersey Boys on Broadway–It Doesn’t Get Much Better!!

November 16th, 2005

It doesn’t get any better than this!!!

Picture this: Your favorite band of all time is the Four Seasons! You grew up with them, listened to them every day since the age of two. Okay, that’s my story…

Sure, they had a ton of number one records (seven) & even more Top 10 hits (19)–but nobody out there ever gave them as much attention as, let’s say, the Beatles, the Stones, or even the Beach Boys, even though they were one of the most successful chart-toppers of the 1960s. Who out there really knew their compelling story?

Well, that’s all changed with the November 6, 2005 Broadway opening night of Jersey Boys!! Now, everybody will know the story of the greatest group in rock ‘n roll history!

On Saturday, November 12, 2005, I had the privilege to see Jersey Boys at the August Wilson Theater. As we waited in line to enter the theater, it was an interesting people-watching experience. For the most part, I noticed a ton of mild-mannered, rather conservatively dressed 50-plus (and of course some younger) attendees who seemed like they were out for a pleasant evening on Broadway. No one around me was saying, “Oh My God, I can’t believe we’re about to see Jersey Boys” (okay, I was thinking it, but tried to remain calm).

The show begins with Tommy DeVito (Christian Hoff), telling the story of how it all began for the Four Seasons. Hoff does an outstanding job playing the tough-talking, street-smart guy from a rough neighborhood, who’s not only a singer and guitarist, but also a petty thief. DeVito tells the audience about his new discovery, a kid who “sings like an angel”. The kid turns out to be young Frankie Castelluccio (Valli), played by John Lloyd Young, in his Broadway debut. Young’s vocals, charisma, and stage presence as a young hopeful Frankie Valli brings down the house! Could this guy be any more like the real Frankie Valli?

Under so many different names, including the Variety Trio, the Romans, and the Three Lovers, fame and the “big break” keep eluding DeVito and Valli, and their bandmate, bass singer, bass guitarist, and sometimes thug Nick Massi (played by J. Robert Spencer). Spencer’s portrayal of the somewhat conflicted and withdrawn Massi was convincing. The trio’s luck changes when DeVito’s obnoxious buddy Joey (who later becomes actor Joe Pesci), introduces him to a young “genius” who writes songs, named Bob Gaudio (played by Daniel Reichard), a middle class kid from the Bronx. In addition to Reichard’s appeal as a young optimistic, songwriter, his vocal talents are showcased in his version of “Oh, What a Night” and “Cry for Me”.

Forget what I said about this mild-mannered baby boomer crowd–this pleasant, but rather quiet-looking crowd came alive! By the time the guys broke into “Sherry,” it was like we were in a 1962 concert starring the 4 Seasons! It was like everyone in the audience was 18 again—with continued wild applause, two standing ovations (one right in the middle of the show!), and massive cheering as the cast belted out the hits including “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Oh What a Night,” and “Dawn.” As John Lloyd Young delivered Valli’s first solo hit, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” the crowd was completely blown away! The energy in the audience was contagious—watching the audience’s reaction was part of the magic of the whole evening.

As DeVito says in the beginning of the show, “You ask four guys, you get four different versions.” During the show, all four guys told their story in such a way—that each was as compelling as the next. The musical talent, chemistry, and charisma Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer, and John Lloyd Young displayed on the stage were truly astounding.

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