4 out of 4 stars
Get ready to sing and sway with Jersey Boys at the historic Auditorium Theatre! For a limited engagement, go behind the music and inside the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in the Tony Award®-winning true-life musical phenomenon. They were just four guys from Jersey, until they sang their very first note. They had a sound nobody had ever heard…and the radio just couldn’t get enough of, but while their harmonies were perfect on stage, off stage it was a very different story.
Two time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff directs the star studded evening. The production features legendary top ten hits like “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like A Man”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, and “December, 1963 (Oh What A Night)”. A rocking time that will have your toe-tapping.
This performance is electric! The stage setup felt like an intimate theater performance, but in a loud way. The production is divided into celestial seasons and each focusing on a different narrator from the band. The interjected character thoughts and commentary really draw audiences in. The drama escalates until the top blows off and the hardships of fame are really exposed.
The scenic design by Klara Zieglerova is simplistic, yet multi-layered. The iron wrought stairs bookend upstage with a gang way across, while the movable sliding doors underneath reveal the live drummer and band that plays to the beat of your heart. Above this gangway is a projection screen that guides the audience throughout the story. The cartoon pop art projections hail to the popular illustrations of Roy Lichtenstein and the style emerging in the 1950’s. Additionally, it’s used as a television screen for American Bandstand. While the quartet performing the chart topping hits like “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, a live feed from multi-camera angles onstage masked as old school technology. You are looking at the behind the scenes side view all while seeing the performers head on in the screen above. The most clever part is when they cut from the live feed to archived footage of the real American bandstand audiences complete with screening dreamy eyed girls.
Quick set changes were what stood this performance apart. There were chairs and tables flying and sliding every which way. The fast pace scenes kept me on my toes, so huge kudos are for the ensemble and stage hands working tirelessly to keep on top of so many moving parts. Speaking of moving parts, the choreography by Sergio Trugillo sure were SHARP! Down to the head bobs and quick steps, simple movements combined and hit on tight marks really make a hell of a difference! Insanely smart choreo!
Eric Chambliss as young composer Bob Gaudio projects a clear full tone and with a very clean cut all American vibe. Jonny Wexler stars as the loveable talented Frankie Valli. Wexler gives an emotional performance with such puppy dog eyes and a voice to almost rival the original. Jonathan Cable plays the strong baseline Nick Massi alongside Corey Greenan as firecracker Tommy DeVito. The original Four Seasons are listed in the playbill with the leads of the production underneath – clever! Chambliss, Wexler, Cable and Greenan each had their own part to play and created such an emotional attachment. They sweep you away, twirl you around and leave you wanting more. It’s like you get an insider’s scoop plus your favorite soundtrack - a win win! Truly a show you just don’t want to end.
The Four Seasons were truly a group dedicated to representing the common working man. The production created a relevance and relatability to these men. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice wrote the book for Jersey Boys. Each hold a plethora of esteemed writing credits under their belts included the 2006 Tony Award, 2007 Grammy Award and 2009 Olivier Award for Best Musical for Jersey Boys. Their combined efforts are truly capture the vibrancy and turbulence behind some of the most iconic voices in American radio. The tour production holds many multi-characters in the modestly sized cast. Todd DuBail as gangster Gyp DeCarlo was hilarious and intimidating – a tricky combo to handle. Wade Dooley as lyricist Bob Crewe was the flamboyant producer to the musical group in the early days. DuBail and Dooley both play many other roles within the show as well and brilliantly executes each one with such distinct acting. Bravo!
Jess Goldstein hones in on classic color palettes of the time period to really express each character individually and communally. From bowling shirts to short dresses with high slits, Goldstein’s designs are believable to the point that you forget you are watching a play. Goldstein’s career highlights include other period pieces like Newsies and On The Town. Paired with a good hair and wig design by Charles LaPointe, the show is a visual delight! LaPointe has designed over 80 Broadway shows including Hamilton, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Anastasia.
Also, Howell Binkley’s lighting design executes the narrative perfectly. Light contributes greatly to we are supposed to read a situation. Binkley’s list of accreditations includes A Bronx Tale, Come From Away (2017 Tony Nominee), Hamilton (2016 Tony Winner), and the list goes on and on. A beautiful moment during the song “My Eyes Adored You” transitions from a duet to the street corner quartet. A powerfully telling gear shift in the fellas journey. A true underdog story from under the streetlight at the corner to the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Looking around during the standing ovation and jazzy bows, everyone was smiling ear to ear. A successful night in touching the hearts and memories of many.
Jersey Boys is now playing through April 7th, 2019 for a very limited engagement at the Auditorium Theatre. Jersey Boys is recommended for ages 12+. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.jerseyboysinfo.com/tour/
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!