Oh what a night it was when Jersey Boys landed in Baltimore as a part of the Broadway Across America— CareFirst Hippodrome Broadway Series! Winner of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical and written by Academy Award-winner Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall) and Rick Elice, it’s the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Featuring music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, this is one sensational show that will have you singing along in the audience to all the hits of a time gone by, showing just how relevant and popular the music really was and how it’s swept through straight to today. Directed by Des McAnuff, Jersey Boys is the smash sensation that shows the heart behind the music, the soul behind the singers, and the truth behind the industry of four guys from under a lamppost in Jersey just trying to make it out and make it big.
What makes this show extra sensational is the hybrid media approach that is subtly infused in the background of the show. Projection Designer Michael Clark brings vibrantly colored animations in a cartoonish style to the screen to highlight numerous scenes throughout the performance. Clark’s design work with this projections are an honest tribute to the comic book era of The Four Seasons’ hay-day, and they add that little extra pizzazz to big numbers like “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
Keeping these four fellas looking their finest comes down to the shoulders of Costume Designer Jess Goldstein. Matching suits in red, black, and several other shades ensure a sharp but spiffy look with a little edge to their aesthetic, matching the new sound they’ve created in forming the group. Burnt orange glitter jackets are Goldstein’s finest feature, appearing during “Walk Like a Man.” Goldstein outfits each of the main four with little hints of their own personalities when they aren’t wearing the ‘group uniform’ like keeping Tommy DeVito in vibrant pink during large portions of the first act; a clear statement that he’s a tough boy from the old neighborhood who wears what he wants because he can.
It’s the dancing that really keeps the audience bouncing in their seats during this show. While there’s only one enormous full-company number at the show’s finale, it’s all of the little four-person routines that Choreographer Sergio Trujillo designs that has these boys looking smooth and stunning all in one go. Trujillo has the feel of the era captured in his shuffle-step routines and works in hip swivels and knee pivots every chance he gets. Seeing these routines that are so vibrantly reminiscent of the actual days of Frankie Valli is a fine tribute to the musicians and styles of yesterday while still showing how effectual they are in today’s music.
While the show may be about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, that is not to say that there are not other stellar performers worth mentioning. Three ripe character actors come immediately to mind: Gyp DeCarlo (Thomas Fiscella), Bob Crewe (Barry Anderson) and Joey (Ian Joseph). Each unique in their placement in the story, these three actors carry a good deal of the show’s levity and provide sensational caricature performances that truly make them noteworthy. Fiscella’s main portrayal as the Mafioso Godfather figure, Gyp DeCarlo, is an homage to every Italian mobster in history. With just the right panache and slightly surly approach to the character, Fiscella makes his presence known as the man with whom you do not mess.
Joseph as the eager and frenetic Joe Pesci makes for a wonderful bout of laughs for the brief scenes where he is featured. With high energy and words that speed like cars on a racetrack his comic bits are exceptionally timed and he becomes a real riot, particularly when being silenced by Tommy. But it’s Barry Anderson as the flamboyant studio master Bob Crewe that really steals the scene when it comes to comedy. His mannerisms and blatant affectations scream melodrama and make for a most amusing few scenes, especially when he starts rambling on about the star charts.
The division of the story is theatricality at its finest; each of the Four Seasons getting a chance to narrate the adventure; one for every season of the year, because if you ask four guys what happened you’re bound to get four different stories. Each has a distinctive narrative style, a pure persona that is presented to the audience making them different from the other, giving us the full scope and range of who these men really were. But when they sing together; the very first time they create that sound of the four of them during “Cry For Me” the quartet blend is dynamite. Hearing those voices come together as if they were always meant to be just freezes you for a moment in time and you’re simply awestruck. And the sound they create only grows with gusto and passion as their careers begin to skyrocket, blazing through numbers like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and finally the ever popular sensation “Walk Like A Man.” By the time they hit this number the harmonies are sublime and total vocal perfection.
Bob Gaudio (Jason Kappus) is the last to join the quartet but has one of the sweetest voices, not only just for singing but for telling his ‘season’ of the tale. It’s his introductory rendition of “Oh, What A Night” that really solidifies his presence on the stage; his voice so solid and yet so smooth for the bigger belting moments of that number. His gentle nature and honest approach to being a human being, being a friend especially where Frankie is concerned, is what makes his character to likeable. Kappus does an exceptional job of letting his story flow naturally to the audience without needing an angle to pitch it.
Tommy DeVito (Nicholas Dromard) is the brass of the operation. Slick talking, chip on his shoulder attitude for a Jersey mile sort of guy, Dromard has this routine pounded in cement. His mastery of the crass Jersey accent is flawless and he makes you feel as if he’s speaking to you straight from underneath that old lamppost every time he opens his trap. Dromard brings an unusual depth to the character, making him more than just the angry meathead; he finds a very subtle way to make him vulnerable, this emotion seeping out, though nearly blasted away by rage, when he finally breaks down in a scene just at the top of Act II. The glue of the group, holding them together and getting them into sticky situations, Dromard really nails this character on the head with all his charismatic chutzpah.
Balancing out the moxie that Dromard brings to the group is no easy task, but Brandon Andrus as the deadpan comic force Nick Massi does so with a polished panache. His comic timing is impeccable; that serious handle on how to deliver stoic deadpan humor is truly uproarious and he often becomes the funniest character in a scene. But Andrus has touching moments as well, deep feeling moments that really allows the audience a glimpse at his character’s true nature. His rich baritone borderline bass voice can easily be heard in nearly all the group numbers but particularly in “Stay” once Tommy has left the group.
And the title man, Mr. Frankie Valli (Nick Cosgrove) has the voice of a pure angel. The soprano range that he achieves in this production is sublime. The way he wails like a siren in the upper register for numbers like “My Eyes Adored You.” Cosgrove’s big vocal moment of unadulterated success comes during “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” where the crowd goes absolutely wild for his pitch perfect crooning. His Jersey accent combined with his crazy splits and dance moves makes Cosgrove a triple threat, but as Valli— with an ‘i’— he weathers the worst season; proverbial winter. His familial struggles weigh heavily into his character and even change the emotional sound of his songs; a stunning transformation to behold. Cosgrove is perfect in this role, really bringing the spark and incredibly unique sound of Frankie Valli to life beyond compare.
So why don’t you come on and walk like man down to the nearest Ticketmaster outlet and get your tickets to Jersey Boys before they say, “Bye, Bye Baby” to Baltimore.
Running Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes, with one intermission.
Jersey Boys plays through November 24, 2013 at The Hippodrome Theatre — 12 North Eutaw Street, in downtown Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available for purchase by calling the box office at (410) 547-7328, or by purchasing them online.
Jersey Boys on Tour website.