Rise of New Jersey Legends
Ten years have passed since The Four Seasons’ jukebox musical, Jersey Boys, premiered in San Diego at the La Jolla Playhouse. From that time on, it became a Broadway megahit with many successful productions performed all over the world. Over the summer, a movie adaptation was released, directed by Clint Eastwood, and featuring the actor who originally played Frankie Valli on Broadway, John Lloyd Young. The show also has a new tour, which is currently having a limited engagement at the San Diego Civic Theatre. Fans will be happy to know that the high energy of the original staging is still intact.
Jersey Boys tells the tale of how The Four Seasons developed into a beloved pop band. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book is divided into sections, as each person in the group shares their story. While the singers rise in popularity, conflicts involving ego, feuds, money and crime jeopardize the happiness of every member.
Des McAnuff, the former artistic director of the Playhouse, directs with a Martin Scorsese-esque style. The scenes come at a fast pace, and the tone switches from relaxed to tense in a matter of seconds. Though that might seem unusual for a music filled spectacle, McAnuff’s vision feels true to the spirit of the real life characters.
Hayden Milanes’ performance captures the unique vocal range of the renowned Frankie. He sings musical numbers such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “My Eyes Adored You” with emotional sincerity, and occasional instances of pain.
His transition from a shy teen to a flawed, yet confident adult makes his triumphs all the more rewarding to watch. The way he conveys personal tragedy is full of pathos.
Nicolas Dromard brings the smarmy charisma that is required for the role of lead guitarist/baritone vocalist, Tommy DeVito. The actor allows the wittiest moments of Brickman and Elice’s dialogue to zing, even when the seedy unofficial leader makes unforgivable decisions.
As songwriter/keyboardist/tenor vocalist Bob Gaudio, Drew Seeley displays intelligence and a down to earth personality to the gifted brains of the bunch. His rendition of “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” is a funny and addicting crowd-pleaser.
Keith Hines has the necessary comic chops as the conflicted, and often-frustrated bass guitarist/vocalist, Nick Massi. Hines shines best during an awkwardly humorous rant towards Tommy, as well as a clever and touching monologue that turns Massi into a sympathetic underdog.
Barry Anderson is hilarious playing the flamboyantly gay record producer, Bob Gaudio. He depicts Gaudio as a smart collaborator who believes in the success of The Four Seasons.
Ben Hartman’s conduction is exuberant, especially during some of the most recognizable hits. When “Sherry,” their first big single plays, the audience reacted as though they were attending a rock concert.
Sergio Trujillo’s choreography is slick and versatile. He immediately starts the introduction on a promising note with modern dancing for the rap song, “Ces Soirees-la (Oh, What a Night).” Shortly after, his multi-talented skill is on display with 1950s dance moves for the doo-wop number, “Silhouettes.”
Adding to the vibrant mood are Jess Goldstein’s costumes, Klara Zieglerova’s scenery and Howell Binkley’s lighting, which makes the action on stage visually enticing. The journey a visceral one, because of these elements.
On opening night, there were some minor technical issues that should easily be fixed for future stagings. For the first few minutes, Steve Canyon Kennedy’s sound design did not blend with the speakers at the Civic Theatre. Another quibble is that Michael Clark’s projections encountered an occasional glitch. Yet, these problems did not to distract from the overall evening.
With the cast and crew firing on all cylinders, Jersey Boys still remains an unforgettable chronicle of a couple of legends from The Garden State. “Oh, What a Night” you will have in late October 2014!
[box] Performs Friday at 8:00, Saturday at 2 and 8:00, and Sunday at 1 and 6. Tickets are generally $35.50-$212.25. Running Time: About two hours and 35-minutes, with one-15 minute intermission. [/box]
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