It’s no secret that jukebox musicals are popular. From Mama Mia! to Beautiful, musicals that showcase the hits of one person or group have been rising in popularity since their inception in the mid-1970s.
Jersey Boys is one of the most celebrated jukebox musicals, sweeping up four Tony Awards in 2006, including best musical. The show tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as they rose to stardom and dealt with the consequences. It’s a good musical (obviously) and well preformed by the cast, but it’s not as enchanting as many of the other touring productions at San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts.
If you’ve never managed to catch a production of Jersey Boys, it’s divided into four sections (or seasons - spring, summer, fall and winter) each narrated by a different member of the original band. First, Tommy DeVito (played by Corey Greenan) introduces the audience to the band members and explains how they started out. As the self-proclaimed leader and founder of The Four Seasons, he explains to the audience how he discovered and fostered the talent of Frankie Valli. Then songwriter Bob Gaudio (Tommaso Antico) joins the group and takes over the narration as they record their first record. The band quickly rises to stardom and goes on the road to perform which brings them money and fame, but a lot of less savory things too.
In act two, Nick Massi (Chris Stevens) tells his side of the story as the band is forced to confront its problems, explaining how everything was flawed from the start. He points out the problems that the past two narrators have glossed over until he decided to leave the band. Finally, Frankie Valli (Ben Bogen) himself talks to the audience directly for the final section of the play. He narrates as the original band breaks up, Bob Gaudio stops performing to become solely the songwriter and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is born. The show wraps up when the original four band members reunite to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
This production of the show is not bad. The actors are singing and dancing their hearts out on stage. There aren’t any weak links in the cast and the staging is well done, it’s just that the show itself doesn’t hold up against some of its more recent counterparts. More and more jukebox musicals have come out over the last twelve years, with more and more complex and interesting storylines.
While Jersey Boys is the quintessential jukebox musical, all it can be is the story of four guys supremely screwing up their lives and making amazing music in the process. Is it a good musical? Yes. Is it going to knock your socks off in comparison to more recent ones like Beautiful or American Idiot? No.
If you are a fan of Valli’s music or have somehow missed every production of the show as well as the movie, then absolutely go get your tickets. It’s everything you could want from a national touring production of a hit musical. But if you’re just looking for any musical, you might want to wait for the next one.
Jersey Boys is playing at San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts (255 S. Almaden Boulevard) June 5–10, 2018. Tickets range from $43–$128. The show runs about two hours and thirty minutes with one intermission.
Photos courtesy of Joan Marcus