It's hard to name another musical that spends so much time dressing fame down, all while building it magnificently up, as does "Jersey Boys."
That it does both at the same time, while never once losing its mercurial balance, is reason enough to offer admiration. So even if you never liked Frankie Valli's "power falsetto," you can stop snickering now.
As stage tour of Newark's most famous, if not finest, pop-music ensemble, this musical by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, Bob Crewe and original Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio packs a lot of perspective into one of the most famous song books of 1960s radio. Its conceit of dividing scenes between all four members seems simple as an idea, but it's far more interesting in context of a live performance.
If there's an Achilles heel at work here, it's that "Jersey Boys" takes a whilealmost one hour into Act Ito rev its narrative engines before it can meld effortlessly with hit songs such as "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like A Man." It opens with brash, confident Tommy DeVito, played with quasi-smug brio by Nicolas Dromard, reminding the audience that even the band's 1970s songs reverberate.
"I don't want to seem ubiquitous," DeVito tells us. "But we put New Jersey on the map."
The group assembles itself from seemingly spare parts of Newark's working-class neighborhoods, where kids either languish on street corners or boil over into trouble with the law. Before these four determined Italian-American boys can become the Four Seasons, they must first wrangle with women and fickle record label bosses.
Part of the show's abundant charm is that even between the characters' "authentic, profane" salty language germane to the East Coast the dialogue is peppered with fine puns, smart one-liners, and exchanges that ring all too true.
"'Y' is a bullst letter," says Frankie Valli's girlfriend Lorraine, played by Kaleigh Cronin, advising his choice between Valli or Vally as stage name. "It doesn't know if it wants to be a vowel or a consonant."
By the time Bob Gaudio, the band's song-writing heart and soul played by Jason Kappus, has given the Four Seasons its requisite rocket fuel to stardom, all that's left is bickering, debt and the silent wounds of broken ego for the great unravelling. "Jersey Boys" never spares its central thesis that, behind every success story, a tortured back story lurks. As such, it's a musical about the hard truths of maintaining tenacity and an iron-clad work ethic against a world in which even the people who work with you can work against you.
Frankie Valli, played from convincing top to persuasive bottom by Nick Cosgrove, comes across as ever the frustrated gentleman, ready to please but almost aching to somehow fail.
It's to this show's great credit that, where it counts most, the music does all the talking. Without even a touch of stage wizardry or special effects, "Jersey Boys" reaches a marvelous climax during "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." With Valli on stage in solo, accompanied by a striking horn section of ensemble cast members behind him, all the pain and drama suddenly makes sense as the song soars into an audience's open heart.
As each band member analyzes the stories of others before delivering his own, the show weaves its narrative lines into a whole cloth that leaves us to marvel that people come together to create any form of success at all. All we know is that, when success happens, you'd be negligent not to celebrate.
'Jersey Boys' at Capitol Theatre
P A paean to East Coast neighborhood boys who made good, even as they struggled against the bad. Bursting with high style and celebratory song, it would be a shame if only Four Seasons fans indulged.
When Â» Reviewed Thursday, June 5. Runs through June 16. Week one, June 7-9; Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m., Saturday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Week two, June 11-16; Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where Â» Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City.
Bottom line • A paean to East Coast neighborhood boys who made good, even as they struggled against the bad. So bursting with high style and celebratory song, it would be a shame if only Four Seasons fans indulged.
Running time •Two hours and 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.