So much of the joy of Jersey Boys is in the unlikely story itself--New Jersey lads who go from singing on the street corner in the early 60s, to becoming one of the great stories in rock n roll history. This is the feel-good, rag to riches story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, one of the most successful bands in American music history. You know you're in for a fun ride.
But there's much more to Jersey Boys, the award-winning Broadway musical that is chock-a-block with the iconic group's hits: Sherry, Walk Like A Man, Big Girls Don't Cry, December 1963 (Oh What a Night),--a steady stream of toe-tapping songs that highlight the journey of this boy band from the wrong side of the tracks. And The Citadel Theatre does the story proud, with Julie Tomaino directed and choreographing the high-energy production.
The writing is the secret weapon of this piece: tightly-scripted, quick-moving scenes narrated in turn by each of the band members. The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice tells the band's history with efficiency, humour and heart; mostly via the up and downs of front man Frankie Valli's life--his tumultuous marriage, struggles with his daughter and bandmates, debts, loves and heartache. Jersey Boys spent 15 years on Broadway and is a Tony and Grammy-award winning musical largely because of the dynamite script.
There's another great joy of The Citadel Theatre's production: Farren Timoteo as Frankie Valli. Timoteo has the vocal chops to take on the iconic singer's range and style. Owning the requisite high notes, Timoteo's vocals sometimes seem doubled on fast-tempo numbers (understandable since the boys are singing, playing and dancing all at once) but he nails the Frankie Valli sound and is especially poignant with the tender numbers like My Mother's Eyes and My Eyes Adored You, Like the superstar he emulates, Timoteo is a true entertainer, owning the sharpest dance moves on the stage: he's a joy to watch.
Especially in the second act, Timoteo demonstrates his acting range too, as Frankie's personal life takes centre stage. From dealing with the breakup of his family and tragic loss of his daughter, to navigating the fracture with the original boys in the band, Timoteo's performance feels true and heartfelt.
But this isn't just the Frankie Valli story and the members of the band are terrific performers too. The Four Seasons--Kale Penny as Tommy DeVito, Jason Sakaki as Bob Gaudio, and Devon Brayne as Nick Massi, are excellent singers and players, and all create sympathetic, colourful and less-than-sophisticated paisan. Penny's DeVito is particularly strong, the self-proclaimed 'maker' of the group and the epitome of a small-time hood who does what he feels he must to keep the band afloat.
Who wouldn't want to be in the ensemble in this show? A handful of talented players take on all the other characters in the production, as horn players, groupies, cops or studio execs. Daniela Fernandez does a great turn as Frankie's hard-done-by wife Mary Delgado, and I got a kick out of Citadel newcomer Billy Brown as Joey (Pesci), who, like DeVito, claims his importance in the band's success (with plenty of F-bombs thrown in for good measure). Bob Gaudio (who wrote much of the band's songs), would likely have something to say about where The Four Season's success was really found, but everyone remembers things in their own way.
Audiences can't help but be on their feet at the end of this rockin' production, both because of the great music on offer, (aided in great part by a six-piece band led by music director Steven Greenfield) but because this is an invested cast that clearly loves telling the story. Don't miss it.
Jersey Boys plays at The Citadel Theatre through March 12.