There is a special aura about New Jersey, excuse me, “Nujoisy.” “De joisy fowks” talk different. “Dey” have an “addetude dat” reeks of testosterone (even the women), and find glee in being “in-ya face.” They live by “der own ruhls.” This combination of being and doing flows onto the stage in JERSEY BOYS.
The buzz of the audience before the curtain went up indicated that they were expecting something special. And, did they get it! At the end of the show they were on their feet screaming for more. (In this instance, this was not an automatic Cleveland standing ovation given for anything from good to bad to very bad productions. This was a deserved standing O!)
As Alex, the 15 year-old kid reviewer, said after the show, “Wow, that was special!” The award winning composer went on to rave not only about the music, both the writing and the playing, but the quality of the voices, the acting, and the choreography.
Yes, as one of the show’s songs rocks out, “Oh, What a Night.” JERSEY BOYS is a story about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. It supposedly is the story of how a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the America’s biggest pop music sensations. They supposedly wrote their own songs. They invented their own sound and sold 175 million records worldwide - all before they were thirty.
You’ll note in the last paragraph I said “it supposedly is the story” and they “supposedly wrote their own songs.” There is some controversy over how much the script’s writers, Marshal Brickman and Rick Elice, deviated from the real story. There is also some question about whether Bob Gaudio did write all of the songs. Be that as it may, there is no question about the entertainment value of the Four Seasons or the production. As one of the songs states, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” You won’t be able to take your eyes off the stage and keep your feet still as the beat goes on and on and on.
The show opened in November of 2005 in New York. It won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical and continues to break box office records on Broadway.
This production includes Matt Bailey as Tommy DeVito, the founder of the group. DeVito’s wild way of living, his spending and gambling, caused the quartet problems and eventually was the reason for its break up. Bailey is appropriately ego-centered in the role. He sings and moves well.
Steve Gouveia portrays Nick, Tommy’s older brother, who was basically along for the ride. Aubrey fits well his part and sings effectively.
Quinn VanAntwerp, not only looks like the real Bob Gaudio, but has the same boyish charm. Portraying the “intellect” of the group, VanAntwerp wraps himself in the role and is completely believable.
The star of the evening is Joseph Leo Bwarie as Frankie Valli. Bwarie was here in the previous tour and, if anything, reaches even higher levels this time. Earlier this week he released his debut album Nothin' But Love which is for sale in the State Theatre lobby. (Be aware that John Michael Dias portrays Valli on Wednesday and Thursday matinees and some Sunday evenings.)
Everything about this production is professional. The sets, the orchestrations and the costumes all work.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Go, go, go see ‘JERSEY BOYS.’ You will have one hell of a time and feel like “The Big Man [or Woman] In Town” as you go out of the theatre humming, “My Eyes Adored You.”