“Jersey Boys” takes us back to the origin of the boys from Jersey, how they started, their disappointments, failures and successes from both a career and personal perspective.
Tommy DeVito (David Toole), Nick Massi (Quinn Patrick Shannon) and Frankie Valli (Adam Marino) start singing in their neighborhood. Frankie is just sixteen – the youngest of the group and the lead singer while Tommy is the boss.
At this point they have no original music of their own but rather settle on popular songs of the time or well-known melodies of prior time periods.
Bob Gaudio (Brecken Newton Farrell) is introduced to the group by Joe Pesci (Jeremiah Smith). Gaudio is a singer/songwriter. As a new singer in the group he also writes songs that fit their musical style and particularly emphasize Frankie’s voice.
Note: Yes, Joe Pesci is the kid who later becomes the famous actor.
Around this time the boys we referred to as the group become the Four Seasons. With Gaudio writing the music and Frankie singing lead, the Four Seasons rise to the top of the charts in the 1960’s with “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” and the list goes on.
Fame doesn’t eliminate personal problems. Frankie has marital problems and loses a daughter. Tommy’s gambling problem only increases as he has more money to throw away.
Tommy leaves the Four Seasons after they pay off his gambling debts (a debt he never pays back). The group continued on with more hits and concert dates.
Note: Today Frankie Valli is the only original member still performing with a new group of backup singers still called the Four Seasons.
He appeared last week in Pittsburgh. Now in his 80’s he’s still riding high (as are his notes)!
Marino delivers a stand-out performance. He does a fantastic job at creating the Frankie Valli falsetto singing voice. He transitions easily from the young sixteen-year-old who wants to sing to a performer intent on success. Marino handles more than the singing and dancing as he shows emotional depth at Frankie’s daughter’s death and with his many marital woes.
Farrell shines as the singer/songwriter responsible for the group’s popularity. His character develops from a rather quiet (at least quieter than DeVito) and business-like demeanor into a force that pushes the group forward.
As Tommy, Toole has the walk and movement of a tough New Jersey kid. Toole plays Tommy as volatile, often times pushy. Toole makes his character easy to be angry with but he also is able to bring out those moments when we actually feel sorry for him.
Shannon’s character is an essential member of the Four Seasons but he remains in the background most of the time. He comes to the forefront when he powerfully and loudly confronts Tommy. Through his tired voice and physical posture he easily transitions into a worn-out performer who just wants to go home.
Marino, Farrell, Toole and Shannon not only sing well but their dance routines are well-executed.
Elena Doyno has a minor role as Frankie’s feisty wife Mary Delgado. When Frankie starts a F-Bomb tirade in their home with their children present, Doyno lashes out at him. After finishing her argument, Doyno with exact timing turns her head and responds with a vulgarity of her own.
This is a great musical production that showcases Frankie Valli, the Four Seasons and their many hits.
Note: One minor concern was the occasional sound loss (not lengthy but noticeable).
Excellent direction and choreography by Natalie Malotke.
“Jersey Boys” is a production of Pittsburgh Musical Theater and is presented at the Byham Theater, 101 Sixth Street, Pittsburgh, PA. It runs from May 4 through May 14. For more information, click here.