Jersey Boys hits the high notes at PPAC

Street corner symphony
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  August 22, 2012

IN HARMONY Andrus, Weinstock, Kappus, and Foytik in Jersey Boys.

Jersey Boys could so easily have been just another jukebox musical, with familiar hits strung together as predictably as notes on a scale. But as lucky patrons are appreciating at the Providence Performing Arts Center through September 2, the show is so much more, a collective biography with heart, high-voltage energy, and rockin' nostalgia.

This is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the '60s group that it took the Beatles to dethrone as the most popular group of its time, though its momentum has carried it through to this day. When the Four Seasons took off, they really took off, with three consecutive number one hits: "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," and "Walk Like a Man." They've sold 135 million records and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Jersey Boys opened on Broadway in 2005, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, originally directed by Des McAnuff. There were numerous imaginative decisions behind making the musical such a grabber, the first being starting things off, at length, in French. It's Paris in 2000, and a French rap singer and his backup group are performing the number one hit at the time, "Ces Soirées-la," which we recognize as "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)."

Tommy DeVito (Colby Foytik) steps out and says he's going to tell us how it all came about. In 1956, he explains, a kid in New Jersey had three ways out: join the Army, "get mobbed up," or become a singing success. Sounds like an easy choice. As well as being the organizer and manager, he played lead guitar for what would become the Four Seasons and recruited Nick Massi (Macioci at that point, played by Brandon Andrus) to add bass. Most rewardingly, he tapped Frankie Valli (Brad Weinstock/Hayden Milanes) for lead singer; he supplied a high falsetto that would soar above all the competition. He snatched keyboard player Bob Gaudio (Jason Kappus) from the Royal Teens, who hit Number 3 with "Short Shorts," written by Gaudio when he was 15. (He was suggested to DeVito by neighborhood guy Joe Pesci — yes, that Joe Pesci.)

They didn't become big out-of-the-box. DeVito had to tutor Francis Stephen Castelluccio . . . I mean, Valli, in singing. They went through several names, most prominently the Four Lovers. At first, producer Bob Crewe didn't sign them on for more than backup because, he said, they had an "identity crisis" about their kind of songs as well as their name.

As noted, this is more than a jukebox musical, but you're still going to hear all the songs you'd want to spend your quarters on. There are teenage crush songs that fixate on a single girl, such as "C'mon Marianne," "Ronnie," and "Candy Girl," their first big hit (boosted by an appearance on American Bandstand). And there are the songs that didn't fit into the pop cubbyholes of the time, such as the brazen "Walk Like a Man" and the gentle "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" (which was Valli's first solo hit).

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  Topics: Theater , Bob Crewe, Rick Elice, Providence Performing Arts Center,  More more >
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