IF YOU GO
What: The rise to fame of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
When: Through March 7
Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers
Information: Call 481-4849 or go to bbmannpah.com
Something Else: Evening classes at Edison College and construction on Summerlin Blvd. create parking and driving backups. Leave a few minutes early.
In the News-Press: Theatre review: 'Jersey Boys' not just a jukebox musical news-press.com (link will expire)
FORT MYERS — Here's the good news: I liked "Jersey Boys." Here's the bad news: "Jersey Boys" isn't all its cracked up to be. It might be the greatest jukebox musical of all time - but it is still just an iTunes playlist fronted by some talented singers and world-class production values.
Let's be honest. Nothing I write makes a whit of difference to the legion of fans who've been waiting months for the arrival of "Jersey Boys." They're attending whether I liked it or not. But, I'm supposed to review, so here's a review. For the record - again, before the nasty letters start arriving - I liked the show, I just don't think it was the greatest thing since sliced capicola.
"Jersey Boys" traces the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons from New Jersey to their enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The show goes to the record bin time and again for a soundtrack of 50s and 60s hits that keeps the crowd screaming, whooping, hollering in paroxysms of orgiastic delight each time another favorite rings out.
I've never seen the staid crowds in Southwest Florida react this way. "Jersey Boys" knows exactly which emotional buttons to push with the ticket-buying public - and it mashes them, repeatedly, all night long. Even the usual stampede for the exits was delayed for two curtain calls. That, my friends, is success.
"Jersey Boys" falters - and I don't want to say fails, because the show reaches heights that jukebox musicals heretofore only dreamed of - when audiences search for anything behind the spectacular singing, staging and stepping. They don't find it. Take away the touchstones of the gorgeous tunes and the show is left with a standard musical biopic plot: struggle, fame, hardship, breakup, recovery, reunite - all of which the cast performs exceptionally well.
Scenes that try to dig deeper - ones that examine Valli's constant touring and how it affected his family - pack a punch - but the show buries that thread in the larger narrative. The group's interpersonal struggles also get lost. The show exists as brilliant, stellar entertainment - but the sound and fury serve no greater purpose. Theater usually makes you think about something - and "Jersey Boys" just blasts away with song and dance.
The incomparable tunes sound even better live than they do emanating from tinny speakers or earbuds. They're backed by an orchestra and poured out through a wall of sound. Music fans, beware - I don't think any single song gets a complete rendition - only the catchiest, most memorable hooks.
Joseph Leo Bwarie belts out Frankie Valli's tunes as if he were born to sing them. He has style to spare. Ryan Jesse radiates a fresh-faced innocence as Bob Gaudio, the group's songwriter and keyboardist. Matt Bailey slouches and pouts as determined hardcase Tommy DeVito, while Steve Gouveia offers an understated turn (and comic relief) as Nick Massi. Jonathan Hadley delivers one of the night's under-rated performances as fey record producer Bob Crewe.
"Jersey Boys" delivers a fantastic night of entertainment; the show celebrates its status as the epitome of the jukebox musical. Many of the emotional touchstones lie rooted in the music of the 50s, 60s and 70s; younger audiences without those memories may be left feeling a bit flat. The talented cast sings their hearts out, the staging and production values are superb - and the music is beautiful - no matter what decade you're born in.
Fire up those tomatoes. E-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mail me, email@example.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.
MORE JERSEY BOYS LINKS
Theatre review: 'Jersey Boys' not just a jukebox musical news-press.com (link will expire)
Jeff Lytle: Like The Four Seasons? You'll love 'Jersey Boys' naplesnews.com
Feature: 'Jersey Boys' unveils the climate behind the Seasons news-press.com (link will expire)
Review: Jersey Boys: Let's hear it for the Boys (2008) telegraph.co.uk
Background information on Franki Valliwikipedia.org
Background information on The Four Seasons wikipedia.org
Visit the official "Jersey Boys" Web site jerseyboysinfo.com