National Tour Theater Review: JERSEY BOYS (Pantages)

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by Kevin Lax on October 9, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours

BOY OH BOYS

With a career spanning over five decades, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons have amassed an impressive catalog, including numerous #1 hits (“Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man”) and over 100 million record sales worldwide. Furthermore, countless covers have been done of the group’s work that extend far beyond the pop rock genre, making them veritable giants in the annals of rock music history. It therefore comes as little surprise that The Four Seasons and their pedigree serves as perfect material for a jukebox musical, a genre of musical theater that has exploded in popularity over the past several years. With songs by the band’s keyboardist Bob Gaudio (music), and their manager Bob Crewe (lyrics), and a skillful book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, penned after extensive interviews with the group’s three remaining members, it isn’t difficult to see why Jersey Boys has been pleasing crowds and critics alike for nearly a decade.

Quinn VanAntwerp, Nicolas Dromard, Hayden Milanes and Adam Zelasko (National Tour). Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

The show chronicles the interweaving storylines of the quartet’s founding members Frankie Valli (Hayden Milanes), Bob Gaudio (Jason Kappus), Tommy Devito (Nicolas Dromard) and Nick Massi (Adam Zelasko) through the ups and downs of their music career from humble beginnings in New Jersey to international stars to their eventual breakup. The story spends a good deal of time on the personal challenges that arise from balancing touring life with life back in Jersey, and employs the group’s songs as mileposts to measure both the band’s commercial success and emotional state. The use of seasonal transitions act as a clever, if not obvious, device to delineate the musical into four separate parts, as the various members take turns presenting their side of the story.

Quinn VanAntwerp, Joseph Leo Bwarie, Matt Bailey, Steve Gouveia and the Company of JERSEY BOYS (National Tour). Photo by Joan Marcus.

Due to the nature of a jukebox musical, the oscillation between narrated and non-narrated segments can often leave the story feeling a bit disjointed and arrhythmic. While Jersey Boys avoids this overall, the story has a lingering air of exposition that never seems to fully settle. Furthermore, there are some continuity issues in the musical where the plot seems a bit contrived and rushed, such as at the end of Act I when Tommy’s debt is revealed, and half way through Act II when Bob is attempting to place “C’mon Marianne” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”

Marlana Dunn, Rachel Schur and Kaleigh Cronin (foreground), Skye Scott, Tommaso Antico, Wes Hart (guitars), and Mark Papazian (drums) in JERSEY BOYS (National Tour). Photo by Joan Marcus.

Generally, the pacing is quite good and the characters are presented in a nice, detailed fashion. However, the absence of any consistent tension or expressed desire on behalf of the four leads makes any sort of character arc or development narrow in scope. Because of this, the libretto falls short of allowing much authentic emotion for the cast, despite commendable efforts from Milanes’ and others, leaving the group’s breakup and the death of Frankie’s daughter feeling vapid and a bit shoehorned.

Joseph Leo Bwarie and Quinn VanAntwerp (National Tour). Photo by Joan Marcus.

Directed by Des McAnuff, this national tour has drawn together an excellent cast and crew that offers professionalism and a palpable vitality. The tight, well-arranged music, under direction of Ron Melrose, lines up superbly with Sergio Trujillo’s catchy choreography. The four male leads provide convincing interplay that moves seamlessly from the more serious to the wittier parts of the story. As Valli, Milanes’s vocal performance is a little spotty, especially during a few numbers in the first act, but he hits his stride in the second act with “Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got)” and finishes strong. Klara Zieglerova’s functional but drab scenic design leaves a bit to be desired.  The music mix can get a little muddy and overpowering, making the lyrics hard to discern, but this is no doubt attributed to the rotten acoustics at the arena-sized Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.

Hayden Milanes, Quinn VanAntwerp, Nicolas Dromard and Adam Zelasko in JERSEY BOYS (National Tour). Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

All in all, Jersey Boys is a vibrant, feel-good jukebox musical with a well-composed book, despite its blemishes. The rags-to-riches, back-to-rags story is interesting and one that warrants telling, considering The Four Seasons’ stronghold in international rock history. If you’re up for something light and accessible, then certainly give Jersey Boys a shot, as the music and performance don’t disappoint, just don’t be surprised if you leave the theater wishing for more connection with the characters and story.

(l to r) Adam Zelasko, Hayden Milanes, Quinn VanAntwerp and Nicolas Dromard in JERSEY BOYS (National Tour). Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

photos by Joan Marcus and Jeremy Daniel

JERSEY BOYS (National Tour). Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Jersey Boys
National Tour
reviewed at Pantages Theatre in Hollywood
scheduled to end on October 19, 2014
for tickets, call 800-982-2787 or visit Pantages

tour continues through May 31, 2015
for dates and cities, visit Jersey Boys

{ 1 comment }

Barbara Galt October 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I saw the original one maybe 4 years ago and Loved it. This one I thought I went into the wrong Theatre. It was not the same and I would not recommend this to anyone

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