Performing Arts: Theater
November 28, 2005

Eager for a feel-good holiday tonic? Walk past the Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree and head straight for the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys."

Whether or not you know the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, your spirits will dance to the tune of their story. Rising from Newark’s gritty, working class, four guys merge into a wildly successful pop vocal group identified by Frankie Valli’s stratospheric, three-octave falsetto. And like the original group, this amiable cast positively quakes with the high-voltage performance of John Lloyd Young as lead singer Frankie Valli.

This economic production struts with a well balanced diet of story line, music and nostalgia. Director Des McAnuff nimbly captures the exhilarating spirits of young men catapulted into the music industry. In the process they shed names and members before finding their "sound" but never lose their pronounced loyalty to each other. Contracts between band members were honored by a simple handshake. Mob ties oiled their ascent to stardom and their near demise. So strong was their brotherhood that when Frankie’s mentor and fellow band member faces financial and possibly bodily ruin, Frankie pays off his debts.

But all of this would not pop if the cast wasn’t so totally inside the 60’s style. That comes from the Jersey swagger and spot-on choreography by Sergio Trujillo. Granted, the cast excels in the choreographed sequences, lashing out tight moves, finger snapping bounces and unison spins -- but Trujillo is a master at replicating standard pop routines and tweaking them with fresh, bold gestures.

McAnuff revels in his tight cast, as he animates the clear and amply detailed book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. The ambiance is accessorize with large comic strip styled pop art by Michael Clark while the set suggests urban sprawl and claustrophobic clubs as visualized by designer Klara Zieglerova.

The dynamite cast revolves around the charismatic Christian Hoff as Tommy DeVito and Young along with strong performances by Daniel Reichard as Bob Gaudio, and J. Robert Spencer as Nick Massi. (My only concern: the wear and tear on Young’s vocal chords).

A kicky pit band lead by Music Director, Ron Melrose juices up this show about an all-American band rooted in New Jersey’s urban sprawl and mob camaraderie. "Jersey Boys" will keep you smiling long after you leave the theater singing "Sherry"-----"Sherry Baby!"

"Jersey Boys" at the August Wilson Theater features music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe. Tickets move fast, so get in line.

Celia Ipiotis

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