Off-Broadway Reopening: JERSEY BOYS (New World Stages)

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by Tony Frankel on October 11, 2021

in Theater-New York

THEY’RE FRIGGIN’ BACK

By now, the world knows about the musical Jersey Boys, the story of pop sensation Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. It’s a triumph, and the NY production leaves all others at the shore. It returns to New York City’s New World Stages (340 West 50th Street) on November 15, 2021. Tickets are available at www.JerseyBoysNewYork.com.

The success of Jersey Boys is no fluke: yes, it has recognizable tunes (“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Oh What A Night,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Working My Way Back To You”), but it also achieves that which has eluded many modern musicals: a strong book.

Credit Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with dialogue that is fresh, fierce, and funny. Being that Jersey is in the title, you can bet the F-word is tossed around frequently, but it doesn’t offend because the cussing, instead of being gratuitous, is generated by character. Four Seasons composer Bob Gaudio originally had the idea to concoct a story and throw songs at it (much like Mamma Mia!), but Brickman and Elice do not just plop down a hit song arbitrarily; instead, they create a dramatic arc by using the song as a cap to each chapter of the phenomenal story – which involves the mob, the record industry, and what constitutes true friendship. With suggestions from director Des McAnuff, the scribes use a Rashomon-like, four-narrator structural device along with sentimentalism and nostalgia; they also include the Achilles’ heel of each group member.

So when a song appears, it has that one-two punch of surprise and nostalgia that creates goose-flesh and moistened eyes for the audience. It is that rare commodity in the theatre: audience members moving to the music (even clapping) while they remain riveted to the story. It’s all so friggin’ believable, you know what I mean?

And for those who have seen the show in humongous theaters, New World Stages’ Theater 1, at 499 seats, is intimate enough to put the fun right in your lap. Returning to Jersey Boys will be stars Jonathan Cable as Nick Massi, Aaron De Jesus as Frankie Valli, CJ Pawlikowski as Bob Gaudio and John Rochette as Tommy DeVito. Also returning are Dianna Marie BargerTristen Buettel, Andrew Frace, Rory Max KaplanJoey LaVarco, Austin OwenMichelle Rombola and Paul Sabala.

photos by Joan Marcus

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