Oh, what a night!
Before Beatlemania reached America there was The Four Seasons, and with their great fame came an even greater story of friendship, loss, and of course, ubiquitous hits. Jersey Boys chronicles their humble beginnings under a streetlamp, their rise to the top, fall from grace, and eventual resurgence as Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
In this musical (book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice), each original band member takes charge of a portion of the band’s story, told in their perspective in parallel to a season. In the first act, we see them form in the ‘Spring’ and experience the height of their careers in the ‘Summer’. By the second act, they go through truly dark times, albeit blunted by the razzle dazzle of the jukebox musical. ‘Fall’ has them disbanding after financial troubles, and ‘Winter’ is bleak with hardly fruitful work and tragedy before the Finale that shows how all the graft and hard work still eventually led to an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group, with Director Bobby Garcia, has produced one of this year’s best musicals that feature an outstanding cast, a marvelous production, and familiar music.
It’s a fantastic staging that beautifully interplays The Four Seasons’ music with their outstanding story. Songs weren’t shoehorned into the narrative. Even when they weren’t particularly moving the tale along, they were performed in the context of a show-within-a-show, or their creation had been integral to The Four Season’s story. Bob spends enough scenes trying to get ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ airplay that when Frankie finally performs it in its entirety in the middle of a near-bare stage, it felt like a satisfying payoff for the audience.
Celebrity Christian Bautista plays Bob Gaudio. He’s a faultless singer and a natural charmer which makes his casting a no-brainer. He, however, delivers his lines in the same clean way that makes him an apt host, though not necessarily a good actor. Certainly not a Jersey boy— he slips in and out (more out than in) of his accent.
Another band member, Nick Massi is played by Nino Alejandro. For the most part, he was there for comic relief, and it wasn’t until the story shifts into his perspective that we finally get to know the 4th member of the group. Mr. Alejandro makes good use of his segment, portraying Nick with an endearing self-awareness that makes you feel for the ‘Ringo Star’ of the group.
Nyoy Volante plays frontman Frankie Valli and promptly blows it out of the water. He walked like the man, talked like the man (literally) and sang Valli’s distinct falsetto without breaking a sweat. It’s a transformative role for Mr. Volante, delivering an even performance whether as a sixteen year old at a barber shop or an anguished father in his 40s.
It’s Markki Stroem, however, who gives one of the best performances of the year. He comes into his own in this production, phenomenal as the assertive Tommy DeVito. Proving himself as capable leading man, he portrays DeVito with a precision and commitment that put the ‘Jersey’ in Jersey Boys.
Rounding out the cast is a strong ensemble (Nel Gomez, Jamie Wilson, Bibo Reyes, Mikki Bradshaw, Yanah Laurel, Giannina Ocampo, Altair Alonso, Steven Conde, Rhenwyn Gabalonzo, Emeline Carmela Guinid, Kendrick Ibasco, Gab Medina, and Timmy Pavino), each handedly playing a revolving door of multiple characters. Most notable were Jamie Wilson’s Gyp DeCarlo, Nel Gomez’s Joe Pesci, and Bibo Reyes’s Bob Crewe.
Faust Peneyra’s scenic design had the proscenium covered in broken wood and guitars, giving the stage a grit the material doesn’t necessarily have. Driscoll Otto’s lighting, however, ably set the mood from big, bright concerts, to subdued behind-the-scenes drama.