Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

From left, J. Robert Spencer, John Lloyd Young, Daniel Reichard, Christian Hoff as the Four Seasons and Erica Piccininni at right at the August Wilson Theater. Click here to enlarge. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

NEW YORK– 'Jersey Boys,' the new musical about the lives and music of the '50’s group The Four Seasons, seems to be the first musical hit of the fall, and the first jukebox musical to succeed since ABBA's long-running hit, "Mamma Mia!" After several jerry-built attempts at fashioning shows around the songbooks of John Lennon ("Lennon"), The Beach Boys ("Good Vibrations") and Elvis ("All Shook Up"), "Jersey Boys" brings some fresh life to the pop musical bio genre.

 It is at the newly rechristened August Wilson Theater (formerly the Virginia) on West 52nd Street.

 "Jersey Boys" succeeds where the other shows failed for several reasons. The book, by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, tells the boys' bumpy, blue-collar tale in a straightforward, narrative way. Granted, their colorful backstory keeps hedging toward soap opera and Oz in Act One, and toward "The Godfather" in Act Two.

 Someone once said that if The Four Seasons had not succeeded as a group, they all would have been either dead or in jail. Mr. Brickman and Mr. Elice keep their rags-to-riches saga mostly on track. Mr. Brickman, who co-wrote Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan," also lends some wit to the show.

 Director Des McAnuff, who brought The Who's "Tommy" to Broadway, brings skill, imagination and pace to the proceedings. The young cast, most of whom are making their Broadway debuts, is nothing short of remarkable. The actors who play The Four Seasons – Daniel Reichard (Bob Gaudio), John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli), Christian Hoff (Tommy DeVito) and J. Robert Spencer (Nick Massi) – all give breakthrough performances. Mr. Young emerges as Broadway's newest star.

 Ultimately, "Jersey Boys" rocks because of its music, which turns out to be strong, varied and surprisingly theatrical. When the group starts to sing such signature songs as "Sherry," "Fallen Angel," "Rag Doll," or a dozen others, the audience levitates with joy. That is something I haven't seen happen in a theater in eons.

 

 

 

 The 2006 Tony Award-winning Best Musica l'Jersey Boys' is being staged through Feb. 22 at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (860) 987-5900 or visiting the theater's Web site at www.bushnell.org.

 Here's a review of "Jersey Boys" that ran in The Catholic Transcript in December 2005. The production is still going strong at the August Wilson Theater.