By Barry Reszel
Smoother than a New Jersey Squirrel (see the recipe here), Broadway in Chicago’s current staging of 2006 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Jersey Boys, is a refreshing blend of storytelling and harmonizing that whips up a concoction of nearly perfect documentary-style musical theatre.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, eat your heart out.
Because long before Jersey Shore spawned celebrity from idiocy, a quartet of Italian-American tough guys from Newark (Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio) brought acclaim to the Garden State with actual talent.
Writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice‘s masterful book lays out the story of the legendary “Four Seasons” musical group, from their Jersey formation and struggles in the 1950s, catapult to stardom in the 1960s, variety of troubles with the road and ultimate 1990 induction into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
What Brickman and Elice do particularly well is to completely tell this story in as tight a manner as the “Four Seasons'” harmonies. Yes, it’s fair to call this a jukebox musical; its score is the group’s own music composed by Gaudio with lyrics by Bob Crewe.
But somehow watching the depiction of this iconic music’s gestation makes it feel more significant. When Gaudio joins the quartet, for example, the audience is gripped by the first glimpse/listen into the group’s signature sound. And when “the whole world exploded” with their hit, “Sherry,” it detonates for their adoring public as well as for the boys themselves. A full synopsis of the plot and history of the wildly successful worldwide productions of this music are found here.
This touring production is nearly an exact replica of its successful predecessors that won 2006 Oliviers and Grammys in addition to the Tony. It’s come through Chicago before via long-term (2007-10) residence and a 2012 national tour. Though the metallic industrial-look sets are overall staging are similar to past productions, this rendition feels every bit as fresh and wonderful as it did in 2007.
No fan leaves saying, “I wish they had sung…” because the jam-packed score includes all of their hits, from, among others, “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” to “Big Man in Town,” “My Eyes Adored You,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Rag Doll,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” and, as part of fabulous finale at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “Who Loves You?”
Tony Award-winner Des McAnuff directs this fabulous production featuring a top-notch cast of singers/actors and musicians. Hayden Milanes stars as the handsome, angel-voiced Valli; Drew Seeley is perfect as the quiet songwriter Gaudio; Matthew Dailey captures the very essence of flawed group leader DeVito; and Keith Hines is terrific as bass-playing lug Massi.
Together with their extremely talented ensemble (Barry Anderson as the manager/lyricist Crewe and Marlana Dunn as Valli’s first wife Mary Delgado are particularly memorable) these four passionate performers bring back the “Four Seasons” in their prime. Vocal precision is matched by their feet, as the wonderful choreography of Tony winner Sergio Trujillo is performed to perfection.
Broadway in Chicago’s “Jersey Boys” runs through May 24 by at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago. Tickets ($35 – $115) and more information are available online here by phone at 800-775-2000a and at all Broadway in Chicago box offices. There are also limited number of $25 day-of-show rush tickets available during the run.