It's easy to dismiss Jersey Boys as another glossed-over Broadway musical dressed as one of those oldies revivals your parents or grandparents go to. But the show, which opened last night to a packed house at the Arsht Center, has been a huge success since it opened on Broadway in 2005, and won the Tony in 2006, for a reason.
It's one of those shows that leaves Four Seasons songs stuck in your head long after it's over. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. Either way, Jersey Boys is a highly-entertaining, Billboard's Top 40s-drenched reverie that pulls you in and doesn't let go until the final standing ovation.
The two-act show tells the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, four blue collar boys who rise out of obscurity from the tough Italian-American streets of Belleville, New Jersey to become one of the most successful pop groups in Rock & Roll history.
The story is broken into four sections (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter -- seasons, get it?) as each member of the group narrates the band's story through forty years of triumph, turmoil and toe-tapping jukebox hits.
While the center piece of the story is Frankie Valli (the y is changed to an i because "y is a bullshit letter."), the real star of the show is guitarist Tommy DeVito (played marvelously by Matt Bailey), the wise-crackin' kid with a long rap sheet and a quick temper.
It's DeVito's street-wise smarts and ties with shady mob types that gets the wheels turning for the group. It's also DeVito's buddy Joe Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci) who introduces the group to Bob Gaudio, the talented musician and songwriter who would eventually compose hit after hit for the group. Jersey Boys is pretty much Goodfellas in a jukebox, and it works splendidly.
With Gaudio on board and with Frankie as the front man ("That kid with the angel's voice," as DeVito puts it), The Four Seasons rise to the top of the charts with a string of back-to-back-to-back hits ("Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Walk Like A Man") and then deal with their inevitable struggle with fame, their downfall, and eventual triumph.
The story's ups-and-downs, along with the elaborate set pieces, humor, and the band's recognizable hits interwoven throughout, make for an all-around entertaining show. Even if you're not into the whole doo-wop thing, The Four Season's story seems tailor-made for the stage.
Look for our full review in this week's issue.
Jersey Boys plays on a limited run through March 20 at the Arsht Center's Ziff Davis Opera House (1300 Biscayne Blvd.) Tickets range from $42 to $86. Call 305-949-6722. Visit arshtcenter.org