Thursday, April 19, 2007

Jersey Boys - The August Wilson Theater, New York City, NY, April 14, 2007

For the most part I have never been a fan of musicals and I probably never will be. There are only a few exceptions. The ones I do like usually have story lines about music and are enjoyable because the songs do not get in the way of the plot. Such is the case with Jersey Boys whose curtain was raised for their 600th performance on Broadway this past Saturday afternoon.

For those who don't know Jersey Boys is the true story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, one of the most popular rock groups of the 60s. They were primarily known for Valli's falsetto vocals and the group's harmonies. The quartet's popularity was so great that, of all the rock artists who predated The Beatles, only they and The Beach Boys were able to survive the onslaught of the British Invasion of 1964.

Despite their success The Four Seasons were largely forgotten until Jersey Boys hit the stage because the group was never considered hip, meaning they never appealed to the right people. Even at the height of their power they were often viewed as an anachronism by critics because their vocals were fueled by 50s doo-wop and they appealed to a more conservative audience than the decade's hippest acts such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. What kept Valli and the guys from sounding too dated is that their street corner harmonies were often backed up by modern rock arrangements of the era. You can hear heavy fuzz bass on the introductions to two of their best songs, "Let's Hang On" and "C'mon Marianne," something that was unheard of in the 50s. They also wrote and arranged their own music making them far more than just another vocal group.

Jersey Boys is a well sung, produced, and acted musical. The production benefits from involvement by original Four Season Bob Gaudio, who was instrumental in bringing the show to the stage. It was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.

The show almost seeems like a documentary at times as the actors portraying the four singers take turns narrating their story. Their asides segued into more traditional musical theater scenes or a performance of one of the many songs The Four Seasons made famous. Among the enormous amount of hits performed during the matinee were "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Rag Doll," "Walk Like A Man," "Let's Hang On," "Working My Way Back To You," "Opus 17," "December 1963 (Oh What A Night)," "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You," and many more.

I was never more than a casual fan of The Four Seasons. I owned several of their 45 RPM singles and, while I can not say that Jersey Boys made me a bigger fan of the group, I thoroughly enjoyed this Tony Award winner for the best musical of 2006.

The Jersey Boys: J. Robert Spencer, John Lloyd Young,
Daniel Reichard, and Christian Hoff

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