A dazzling, gritty, almost painfully fun example of everything that musical theater should be, Jersey Boys is the kind of production that prompts wonder at why other musicals of recent years have gone wrong. It's the stage-adapted biography of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, principally narrated by irascible founding member Tommy DeVito. As their chronicle unfolds, the quartet faces a revolving door of setbacks, from incarceration and deep debt to musical identity crisis and unfortunate simian costume gimmicks. Following a lineup change, the brash Seasons are introduced to reserved songwriting prodigy Bob Gaudio through mutual acquaintance Joe Pesci (really, it's hard not to love a show whose plot trajectory hinges on Joe Pesci). Though the production's opening scenes are nearly as inauspicious as the haphazard foursome itself, when the group breaks into "Sherry," the reason behind all those Tony Awards becomes evident. From here, the script and score gather momentum in tandem. Christopher Kale Jones (as Valli) has even the most skeptical among the audience on their feet by closing curtain. The incorporation of smoking, swearing, and call girls strikes a sharp contrast to the players' impeccable suits and melodious voices and, coupled with the tremendous scaffolded set, serves as a constant reminder of the Four Seasons' humble origins. The female characters are two-dimensional at best, but inspired costume design and lighting effects more than compensate. The show is well-scripted and the acting good almost without exception, so it seems redundant to hand out specific kudos; nevertheless, Erich Bergen as Gaudio and Devin May as DeVito deserve special praise. John Altieri, in a supporting role as producer Bob Crewe, is likewise excellent. email@example.com
Jersey Boys 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., 625-1900, www.5thavenue.org. $28–$88. 7:30 p.m. Tues.–Wed., 8 p.m. Thurs.–Fri., 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sun. Also 2 p.m. Wed., Dec. 26; 7:30 p.m. Mon., Dec. 31, and Mon., Jan. 7. Ends Jan. 12.