Opening Nights: Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys

The 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., 625-1900, $29–$123. Runs Tues.–Sun.; Times Vary. Ends May 4.

In an era that included the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the music of Motown, Jersey Boys would have you believe that the Four Seasons were a peerless pop phenomenon. Well . . . not exactly. But what the Seasons did have—as put on brilliant display every five minutes in this touring show—is a slew of catchy radio hits and one hell of a mobbed-up history.

As told in round-robin fashion by the group’s four founders (and based on actual interviews), Jersey Boys is the story of runaway egos, Catholic upbringings undone by the sexual revolution, and the singular falsetto of Frankie Valli (Brad Weinstock). With songs and score by original band member Bob Gaudio (former Seattleite Jason Kappus), this 2005 jukebox musical offers the expected hits—“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” etc. Then there are tales of sudden fame, warring egos, drugs, divorce, and too much time on the road. Ambitious guitarist Tommy (Colby Foytik) initially finances the group via loan sharks (keeping a portion for himself). Once they reach the Top 40, inevitably the mob comes looking to settle old scores.

The two-act show culminates with the Seasons’ 1999 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Jersey Boys provides a brisk ride through a story not many remember today. The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice is a taut, well-told tale, and Gaudio’s music is surprisingly resilient for its origins in ’50s doo-wop. His songs are crisp as a new tuxedo, expertly performed by the four main actors and their various augmentations, which include video screens and a crackerjack live orchestra. For me, the highlight of Jersey Boys, originally directed by Des McAnuff, is the 1967 hit “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

Still, I have one quibble. The show’s main action is set during the ’60s, but it barely acknowledges that decade’s cultural upheaval. True to their roots as Borscht Belt entertainers, the Seasons were more attuned to casinos and the Catskills. Were they a rock group? To Richard Nixon, maybe. But nostalgia-minded boomers won’t care about such distinctions today.

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