Virtuoso JERSEY BOYS Are Back!

by Jack Shaw

l to r) Jason Kappus, Brad Weinstock, Colby Foytik and Brandon Andrus star in JERSEY BOYS, part of the Kimmel Center Broadway series, running at the Forrest Theatre through January 15, 2012. (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

My wife, Amy, and I attended the official press opening and the launch of JERSEY BOYS’ second National Tour at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia. The production was a magnificent breathtaking adrenalin rush, an ecstatic experience I will not soon forget.

Last year’s engagement at the Forrest Theatre broke box office records, and this one is bound to break its own records if that’s possible.

If you didn’t know JERSEY BOYS won the 2006 Best Musical Tony Award, the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, the 2009 Oliver Award for Best New Musical and the 2010 Helpmann Award for Best Musical (Australia), you might think this is just another biopic…er, musical storybook about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. It is and it isn’t. It is not just a tribute to their talent, their journey. There’s more.

This production was great musical theatre. The Broadway JERSEY BOYS actually won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Two-time Tony-Award-Winning director, Des McAnuff, made it so much more than what the basic story would suggest with his creative staging, crisp movement, and the images and sounds to take us back to the beginning, the early days, the disco days, etc.

The music takes the audience back to their childhood, if they are as old as I am and even if they are not, to a time when there always seemed to be a Frankie Valli/Bob Gaudio song playing on the radio. I knew every song and loved every minute of hearing them performed by actors flawless in their musical re-creations.

It wasn’t just the electrifying music that made the theatrical experience so great; the ever-changing backdrop, an amazing set with mics and set pieces that roll smoothly and seamlessly on stage, and the concert-like lighting and sound used to the fullest effect. It was also the brilliant book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice that gives each of the major players a chance to tell the story from their perspective. Director Des McAnuff has the actors moving from action to song in a smooth character heartbeat, while set pieces and scene changes are made seamlessly behind them or beside them. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo stylizes each musical number with movement and dance appropriate to the song and the period.

JERSEY BOYS was a phenomenal production, stirring excitement and anticipation in the audience at every turn. I sat on the edge of my seat through most of the show. Each song warranted enthusiastic applause and aroused the audience more and more until beginning with The Four Seasons‘ signature song, “Sherry,” the crowd was so pumped they could barely contain themselves. They were like starstruck teenagers at a concert–only this time they had to wait until the end for the standing ovation.

Sure, it is a story we’ve heard before: our heroes, aching for success, are able to have it, but it comes with a price. With that magical moment of success comes hard and frustrating times; life happens and we are still fascinated by it all. And, JERSEY BOYS is more creative in its production, more exciting in its music, and more uplifting in its result than most.

Creating original songs and a new sound made Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons great, with a well-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As an audience, we are a part of their adventure as we see and hear those songs again applied to the story in a way that gives their fame and success all the more meaning.

Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
The Forrest Theatre
1114 Walnut Street
(between 11th and 12th Streets)
Philadelphia, PA 19107

December 6 – January 15, 2011
Check the theatre web site for ticket information

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