Timeless musical thrills when Jersey Boys come to town

by Beacon Staff • September 9, 2009

A street lamp lowers from the ceiling. "But four guys under a street lamp, when it was all still ahead of us.,"They ask you, 'what was the high point?'" says Frankie Valli (Joseph Leo Bwarie) to the audience. "The hall of fame? Selling all those records? Pulling 'Sherry' out of that hat? It was all great."

A street lamp lowers from the ceiling. "But four guys under a street lamp, when it was all still ahead of us...and everything dropped away and all there was was the music, that was the best."

Those few moments of dialogue embodies what Jersey Boys does to its audience. It puts them under the spell of that youthful feeling of having the world in front of them. As the play begins, everything melts away; the theatre, the people next to you, the little things that went wrong with your day. All that's left is the music.

You don't have to be from New Jersey or have been alive in the 1960s to enjoy Jersey Boys, although understanding a little mob humor helps. Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, an American band that challenged the sound of The Beatles with their own sweet and high-pitched ooh-wee-oohs, through good times and bad.

The story is told from the perspective of each member of the band. Not simply a biography of a legendary band, the show spins a tale about boys who learn what it takes to be men.

The first act of the play is shear elation. When the characters in the show first sing "My Mothers Eyes," and "Sunday Kind of Love," the audience gets goose bumps that not even a thick Jersey accent could shake. Jersey Boys is not your typical musical, in which the songs carry the plot of the show. It is more of a great concert with the audience invited backstage.

The first fourth of the show is told through the eyes of Tommy Devito (Matt Bailey), the member of the group who is the most connected . to music of course. To Tommy, being a good member of the band means being able to 'take care' of everything, and not always in a lawful way. Although Tommy is the tough guy and often stirs up trouble, he is the one who pulls a 16-year-old Valli onto the stage to sing for the first time.

The audience laughs as Tommy drags the band to dive bars all over the country, getting into tiffs with police and mobsters. Everything changes for the band when Tommy adds Bob Gaudio (Josh Franklin) to the band, an almost too-young man who has a way with songwriting and a thirst for hits.

Gaudio isn't like the other Seasons. At first he doesn't understand what it means to be 'from the neighborhood' or loyal to the mob. The part of the show narrated by Gaudio takes the audience through the glory years of The Four Seasons. In this part of the show, we see the band record the music that propelled them to the top of the charts like, "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Oh What a Night," and "Walk Like a Man." It is at this point in the show where the musical performance of the actors and musicians takes over and injects the audience with a sensation of youth.

The second act shows a parallel tale, told by Nick Massi (Steve Gouveia) and Valli. On one hand, the band is doing wonderfully, especially with the hit "Can't Take my Eyes Off of You;" however, it is here where we see the struggle that goes on behind the scenes, and the toll fame and fortune takes on the band's families and their friendships.

The show's music, combined with the actors' unfailingly youthful potrayals, came out during intermission when the audience began singing, praising the actors and reminiscing about times when the songs were popular.

The show draws a mature audience, logically, considering the show is about the music of an older generation. But Jersey Boys is not your parents' musical. It has a freshness and youthful intensity that can only be attributed to the timeless music, which captures the pure experiences of growing up that are, well, timeless.

It has the realities of friendship, disappointment, hope, and joy that all generations can relate to, with some secret ingredient that makes you want to take whatever it is you do, and do it to its fullest potential. While an older audience definitely enjoys and appreciates this show, the benefit is lost on the younger crowd that, unfortunately, simply isn't present.

Most people wouldn't think a breath of fresh air would come into Boston by way of New Jersey, but that is exactly what Jersey Boys is. Wearing comfortable shoes is suggested, for dancing in the aisles and running home to buy the soundtrack will most likely follow after the curtain call.