[ All Photos by Jeremy Daniel. Click any photo to enlarge. ]
It has been more than a decade now since I had the pleasure of seeing the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit, JERSEY BOYS, in the Big Apple. The fun has continued ever since with productions and tours around the world, and happily the latest edition has landed this week in Houston’s Hobby Center. Of course it was not the show’s first trip to the Big “H,” and it will doubtless not be the last. At Tuesday night’s opening, it was immediately clear that just about everyone in the sell-out crowd was well-acquainted with the music of Bob Guadio & lyrics of Bob Crew that have made this time honored gem such a perennial classic. Loosely based on the true story, the well-crafted book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice gives us a plot that broadly outlines the evolution of the renowned pop group, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, during the 1950’s and beyond. It’s been nearly ten years since I reviewed that continuing tour for ThePeoplesCritic.com, and amazingly, as I write these lines, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are performing a live concert at the Milwaukee Theatre in Wisconsin.
With sparkling direction from Des McAnuff, Jersey Boys centers on young Frankie Castelluccio, his early New Jersey ventures into the music business, and his various relationships with fellow musicians that ultimately result in formation of the legendary group that would share his new last name: Valli. Some of the fast-paced scenes in the early going are a bit frantic and hard to follow, but it really doesn’t matter because it is the treasured pop songs that anchor the piece, and give it the energy that continues to thrill audiences after all these years. The solid cast is beautifully led by Cory Jeacoma as Bob Guadio, Keith Hines as Nick Massi, Matthew Dailey as Tommy DeVito, and the sensational Aaron de Jesus as Valli. (Miguel Jarquin Moreland plays that role at the matinee performances, and the soaring falsetto work required for the part makes it easy to imagine why two performances in one day would be a stretch for these talented vocalists). Drew Serkes, in the role of Tommy’s brother, Nick DeVito, lends his fine voice to some of the early numbers like “Silhouettes,” and, “You’re the Apple of My Eye.” Then this musical rocket ship really begins to take off as De Jesus sings a splendid, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and Mr. Dailey powerfully leads the full cast in the popular, “Sunday Kind of Love.”
Jersey mob complications arise from some loan shark arrangements that endanger the group, and Thomas Fiscella is convincing as the crime boss, Gyp DeCarlo, who has an amusing sentimental breakdown when Valli sings the poignant, “My Mother’s Eyes.” Speaking of amusing, Johnny Wexler does a comic turn as the recording studio engineer, and there is a terrific cast of supporting players that excel in multiple roles. The action moves smoothly with the attractive gliding sets (scenic designer, Klara Zieglerova) and colorful lighting (designer Howell Binkley).
Of course there is romance as Frankie finds love and marriage with a real gum chewing Jersey girl who could give lessons on how to talk out of the side of your mouth. (Kristen Paulicelli in the role of Mary Delgado). The Four Seasons sound that the fans had really come to hear came into full focus as the polished team takes off in scarlet red guy group jackets (Costume designer, Jess Goldstein) for sensational performances of familiar hits like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Dawn,” and a “Walk Like a Man,” that has the kind of crisp, marching band choreography that keeps things lively throughout the show (Choreographer, Sergio Trujillo).
Life on the road puts fatal strains on the Valli’s marriage and family life with sad implications for their daughter Francine (Leslie Rochette). Before the curtain falls on Act One, Paulicelli and De Jesus deliver a heart-wrenching, “My Eyes Adored You,” as the Valli marriage crumbles.
But not to worry as Act Two delights abound. Consider such ever-popular hits as, “Stay,” “Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), “Bye Bye Baby,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Working My Way Back to You,” and “Rag Doll.”
If that’s not enough, stay around for the electrifying encore of “Oh, What a Night.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
JERSEY BOYS continues at Houston’s Hobby Center through Sunday, November 20, 2016 with performances Friday & Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and weekend matinees both Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets & Information visit www.hobby.centerhouston.net/ or call 844-854-1450.