Clad in a red dress in honor of “Sherry” and a pair of heeled saddle shoes, I headed up to the orchestra level of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts to see what the buzz about “Jersey Boys” was all about.
Lo and behold, there is a jukebox blasting everything from Elvis Presley to Diana Ross in the Orchestra level lobby. Up a short flight of stairs is a photo op where patrons can strike a pose with old-timey microphones and doo-wop-worthy blazers. I suddenly found my ears ringing with tritone harmonies and a strange craving for a chocolate malt.
“Jersey Boys” is the story of how Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons came into fame. It begins with Tommy DeVito (Nicolas Dromard), one of the original Four Seasons, introducing the audience to what it means to be from “the neighborhood” (Bellville, New Jersey).
DeVito explains that in the neighborhood “you got three ways out: You could join the army. You could get mobbed up. Or you could get famous.” Clearly Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Frank Valli took the road to stardom, but not without a few detours for the mob.
The group performs under an onslaught of different names ranging from the Romans to the Four Lovers before settling on the Four Seasons.
The musical explores the group’s many trials. They worked as back up singers, toured around any club that would give them a slot, tackling fame and being on the road once they garnered their share of top chart singles.
Frankie Valli struggled with being an absentee father and his once mesmerizing wife becomes a drunk that left the children at a loss for a stable parent in the household.
Tommy DeVito was in over his head borrowing money from various mobsters as well, as gambling away the little money he had. The group had to go on the road to crawl out of the 1 million dollar hole of debt on account of his lack of financial responsibility.
Nick Massi ended up telling his children he was actually their uncle to abandon his fatherly duties, until his guilt caught up with him and he left the group to return home.
Bob Gaudio was the youngest of the group and had a one-hit wonder before joining the group. He did not suffer as much as others did from the fame machine, but then again he did not hail from the notorious neighborhood.
This particular adaption of “Jersey Boys” directed by Des McAnuff lived up all to the expectations of the hype. The set changes to accommodate the swift transitions from dialogue to band performances with many of the musicians on stage alongside the Four Seasons (as opposed to in the orchestra pit) were seamless to say the least.
Iconic numbers like “Sherry,” and obviously “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” showcased Hayden Milanes’ abilities to capture Frankie Valli’s unique vocal articulation while still allowing his own voice to shine through.
The UCI alumni, Quinn VanAntwerp played the role of Bob Gaudio, who was responsible for the group’s songwriting. VanAntwerp made UCI’s drama department proud with his first number “Cry For Me,” which showed off his an impressive vocal range and charismatic quips that transitioned the scenes through the timeline of the Four Seasons’ hits on the radio.
“Jersey Boys” is a comedy as well as a musical. There are plenty of profanities and innuendos (apparently characteristic of the neighborhood) that brought forth small chuckles to gut busting laughter.
The characters Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi were responsible for much of the hilarious commentary between numbers. Also commendable were the visuals of the live videos of the performers playing on stage to give the feeling of them recording on TV, as well as the footage of Ed Sullivan introducing the group.
The release of “Jersey Boys” OC coincides with the box office release of Clint Eastwood’s rendition. However, “Jersey Boys” at Segerstrom features more superb vocalists, actors and the thrill of a live performance that just can’t be captured the same on camera.
I left the performance feeling light-hearted and with the inspiration of creating a playlist. All of the songs were going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the week anyway. Oh, what a night.
“Jersey Boys” ran at the Segerstrom Center for The Arts from June 24th- July 13th.