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  • Nate Adams

'Jersey Boys' review: Croswell brings life to story of Franki Valli & The Four Seasons


Courtesy of The Croswell Opera House

 

It says something about the commitment, work ethic, and talent that even before the final bows take place, an audience is already on their feet clamoring for an encore. That’s exactly what happened during the rollicking opening night performance of The Croswell’s “Jersey Boys,” the iconic musical about the tumultuous journey Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons underwent before they became global sensations. It’s no shock the opening night crowd was held on every falsetto, tenor, and syllable of this jukebox display. The timeless music by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, which features a catalog of generational hits “Walk Like A Man,” “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and many others, is enough to get anyone’s blood flowing and ears humming. But when you’re stacked with an ensemble and behind-the-scenes crew that’s this efficient, it makes elements like the first act, a 33 scene gauntlet of speedy costume changes and rotating scenery, feel like a breeze. I looked at my watch and couldn't believe how fast time flew by. 


Full disclosure, I don’t love the structure of “Jersey Boys” and how it jams an encyclopedia worth of exposition into many of the early and late scenes and its constant shifting of perspectives can become dizzying. Not to mention some of the emotional hooks don’t pay off the way scriptwriters Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice had envisioned. Nonetheless, The Croswell’s iteration never falters under the direction of Mark DiPietro who keeps the tempo at a relentless pace, going above and beyond to make sure the audience never loses track of this rags-to-riches narrative. It helps, too, his main quartet of Adam Woolsey, Kevin Ludwig, Adam Baker, and Cordell Smith, playing Franki Valli, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi, and Bob Gaudio are aces in the hole. A necessity or else the show craters instantly. 


Woolsey has a beautiful three octave range with a strong tenor/nasal falsetto that captures the lighting-in-a-bottle magic of what it felt like discovering Frankie Valli in that era. Ludwig plays DeVito with the bravado and stage presence of a middle-aged Italian gangster plucked straight from the Martin Scorsese classic “Goodfellas.” The kicker? He’s only 19. Baker, a riot in last summer’s Croswell smash “Little Shop of Horrors,” is equally fine tuned as the Four Seasons bassists guitar player/singer Nick Massey, and Smith, playing Bob Gaudio, showcases a delightful vocal presence that sent audiences soaring during his solo in “Cry for Me.” 


Collectively, along with a solid scenic design by Doug Miller and costumes by Pam Krage, they transport audiences back to the early 1950s where Tommy is a member of “The Variety Trio” before plucking Frankie Castellucio from obscurity and eventually turning them into household names thanks to early hits ala “December ‘63 (Oh, What a Night).” Throughout the show, each member of the band takes their turns recollecting how The Four Seasons rose to fame and dealt with financial setbacks and fraught emotional turmoil. It plays like a documentary on the stage, something that’s easily translatable for casual theatergoers looking for a production that’s a sure thing. 


Elsewhere, Ray Novak and Michael Yuen, as conductor and vocal director respectively, help usher in these iconic tunes to The Croswell stage. An expectation that shouldn’t be taken lightly considering the theater is one of the first non-equity venues to snag rights to the show and anyone purchasing a ticket likely knows some (or most) of these songs like the back of their hands. Judging by the rapturous response around me, I’d say mission accomplished. Choreography by Audrie Hafner, with assistance by Shonn Wiley, doesn’t disappoint. 


There are few instances where you can say a musical is made for a specific stage, venue, and director. “Jersey Boys,” The Croswell, and DiPietro are the perfect marriage for this expansive show. It has the production value and musical prowess of a professional tour, but has the heart of a community rallying around an inspirational story with songs they cherish. That alone is worth the price of admission and enough to get you dancing in the aisle. 


The Croswell’s production of JERSEY BOYS continues through June 18th. Tickets can be purchased at Croswell.org


  


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