Oh what a night: Jersey Boys leaves the audience humming
December 18, 2008
Recounting the phenomenal pop-chart success of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the opening act of Jersey Boys, band member Tommy DeVito characteristically brags that the groups music was ubiquitous.While that might be a bit of an overstatement the clean-cut group frequently found itself upstaged in the 1960s by the British Invasion and counterculture rock its hard to argue with the impressive string of catchy hits marked by Vallis famed falsetto that turned the Four Seasons into a top seller.The smash-hit Broadway musical, playing through Jan. 3 at the Buell Theater in Denver, follows the original four band members from their delinquent days in a rough New Jersey neighborhood to their meteoric rise and ultimate disintegration, a story subtly reflected in their songs.The Tony Award-winning musical is narrated by each of the members of the original band, giving the show a Roshomon effect or, as Tommy (Erik Bates) explained by way of introduction: You ask four guys, you get four different versions.Tommy, a streetwise neer-do-well, takes the angel-voiced teenager Frankie (Joseph Leo Bwarie) under his wing, and together they move through a revolving cast of musicians and band names before meeting songwriting prodigy Bob Gaudio (Josh Franklin) and settling on the name The Four Seasons, taken from the neon-lit advertisement of a run-down hotel where they performed.Its a sign! Frankie notes in one of the many well-timed puns and jokes that keep the show light and lively.Sometimes tabbed a jukebox musical, the music in Jersey Boys is the color to the story rather than an integral part of the narrative so characters dont suddenly and disconcertingly launch into songs for no apparent reason.Instead, each song is presented as a Four Seasons performance, whether in a small mob-run Jersey cabaret or a sold-out concert hall (presented with stunning effect when the audience gets a backstage view of a show from behind the band members as they perform into a bank of blinding spotlights). Coupled with snazzy choreography, songs like Sherry, Big Girls Dont Cry and Walk Like a Man demonstrate the appeal of the band as it reached the height of popularity.Meanwhile, the band struggles with its fame You sell 100 million records and see how you deal with it, band member Nick Massi said and starts to fray.Tommy, the compulsive gambler whose growing debts to the mob ultimately led to his abrupt departure, is played with masterful New Jersey wise-guy cynicism by Bates, who happens to have toured as an actual member of the reconstituted Four Seasons behind Valli.Franklins Bob, the brooding songwriting genius whose handshake agreement for Valli formed the basis of a lifelong friendship and musical collaboration, wanders in search of the next big hit.And the diminutive Frankie, portrayed with sweet innocence by Bwarie, grows during the shows 40-year timeline from an uncertain teen with a wavering, shallow voice into a powerful singer capable of commanding solo turns that mesmerize the audience with songs like his moving rendition of Cant Take My Eyes Off You.Only Nick (Steve Gouveia), the understated bass player who left the band at its apex without giving much reason, remains obscured in mystery and isnt fully developed as a character.With bittersweet humor, he explained that the issue was all four guys wanted to be at the front of the stage, and when one of you is Ringo….Poignantly, as the band members go their separate ways, Frankie sings a medley of Stay, Lets Hang On (To What Weve Got), Dont You Worry bout Me, and Bye Bye Baby.The tunes linger like the memories of a great era.
What: Jersey Boys Where: The Denver Centers Buell TheatreWhen: Through Jan. 3; Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.; Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m.; matinees at 2 p.m.Tickets: Limited tickets remain. Call (303) 893-4100 for information.