Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: The Power of the Music Lives on in JERSEY BOYS

L-R: Jason Kappus, Nicolas Dromard, Hayden Milanes
and Adam Zelasko. Photos by Joan Marcus

The first time I saw Jersey Boys was in 2007 when the first national tour came to Los Angeles. The jukebox bio-musical chronicling the rise of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had already won four Tony Awards the previous year, including Best Musical, and there would be plenty more awards to come.

Still, my expectations were low. No one was more surprised than I was that the show completely over-delivered in every possible way. I fell in love with its electricity, the stories no one had ever heard before, and more than anything, with those gorgeous songs that take on a larger than life presence when you hear them sung live. It was four guys recreating the sound that made Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio, and Nick Massi pop superstars and it was incredible.

Now the second national tour of Jersey Boys has made its way to the Pantages Theatre and if opening night was any indication, fans still can’t get enough of it. This time my expectations were high, however, and though it didn’t match the thrill I had seeing it the first time, that gorgeous music still casts a spell that is impossible to deny.

Structured in four sections that follow the four seasons – spring, summer, winter and fall – each member of the group takes his turn to tell his version of their story. Through jail time, betrayal, jealousy, monumental debt, and plenty of family problems, the boys saw their share of trouble. But they lived by a code that kept them together for a very long time, until their individual human weaknesses finally split them apart.

The four singers who make up the group do a terrific job of blending their voices in the harmonies The Four Seasons made famous, though Hayden Milanes employs a more nasal quality for Valli’s famous high notes that occasionally overpowers the blend (Granted, it’s grueling for any singer to try and replicate Valli’s singular voice and when Milanes clicks it is lovely).

Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito), Jason Kappus (Bob Gaudio), and Adam Zelasko (Nick Massi) are the remaining band members and all four believably capture the essence of each unique personality. Dromard is the standout as the hothead of the group in a wild card performance that makes sparks fly on stage. The crisp choreography by Sergio Trujillo is impeccably executed and staging by director Des McAnuff ably managed by the cast. Thomas Fiscella adds gravitas as mobster Gyp DeCarlo.

But let’s face it; this show is all about the music and Jersey Boys contains more than thirty classics written by Bob Gaudio (music) and Bob Crewe (lyrics) woven together by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s engaging book. From the group’s first hit, Sherry, to Frankie Valli’s game-changing Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, it’s one great song after another. Big Girls Dont Cry, Walk Like a Man, Dawn (Go Away), Stay, Rag Doll, Working My Way Back To You, Who Loves You…they’re all here.

The real highlight of opening night, though, was a surprise during the curtain call when the real Frankie Valli took the stage with the cast for a bow. The crowd literally went wild and in that single moment the evening reached the thrilling electricity I felt when I first saw the musical seven years ago. Amazing.

From singing under a street lamp to defining the sound of a generation, four boys from Jersey hitched their wagon to a star and made their dream come true. If youve never heard their story - how they got their name (hint...a neon sign was involved), who really discovered Frankie, the three rules you never break, and what really caused the rift between Tommy and Frankie - nows the time! 

L-R: Adam Zelasko, Hayden Milanes, Jason Kappus and Nicolas Dromard 

Foreground L-R: Marlana Dunn, Rachel Schur and Kaleigh Cronin.
Back: Guitars Tommaso Antico, Wes Hart. Drums: Mark Papazian

L-R: Jason Kappus, Hayden Milanes, Nicolas Dromard, Adam Zelasko 
and the Company of Jersey Boys.


JERSEY BOYS
Sept 30 - Oct 19, 2014

Pantages Theatre
6233 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
www.hollywoodpantages.com


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