There’s a scene in the mind-blowingly good musical Jersey Boys in which erstwhile hoodlum and fast-talker Tommy DeVito, founder of the internationally known singing group The Four Seasons, tells singer Frankie Valli there are three ways out of the blue-collared serfdom of 1950s New Jersey: the army, the Mob, or stardom. In its nearly three hours, Jersey Boys relates the story of how four, brash 1950s young men – DeVito, Valli, Nick Massi, and songwriter Bob Gaudio – made it big in the music business.
Now playing at National Theatre, Jersey Boys is a phenomenally entertaining crowd-pleaser, thanks to Director Des McAnuff. Jersey Boys features a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Ellice, lyrics by late, legendary music producer and songwriter Bob Crewe, and music by Gaudio, who wrote the hit “Who Wears Short Shorts” at age 15, and has worked with such artists as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Frank Sinatra.
Jersey Boys landed on Broadway in 2005 and won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The London production took the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 2009. Director Clint Eastwood made a wonderful film version back in 2014.
This musical features a plethora of memorable hits: “Oh, What a Night! (December, 1963),” “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry,” “My Eyes Adored You,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” and “Working My Way Back to You.” The show tells the backstory of some of these songs and also reveals the origin of the name The Four Seasons.
Jon Hacker, who plays Valli (formerly known as Francis Castelluccio), uses his mellifluous voice to give flight to many of the hits: “Sherry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” especially. Hacker is a veteran of the Broadway and Off-Broadway productions of Jersey Boys. He plays Valli from his teenage years to his later years.
Corey Greenan’s effulgent smile and mischievous mannerisms give Tommy DeVito panache. Greenan, who has played Sky in Mamma Mia! on Broadway, is mostly swagger and Roman machismo in his role, with a hint of fun-lovingness—you want to have a beer with him.
Eric Chambliss’ performance as Gaudio includes a transformation of his character from an introverted songwriter to an on-stage performer. The unusually tall Chambliss sports impressive dance moves during The Four Seasons’ musical numbers.
Michael Milton, who has toured nationally in Dirty Dancing as Johnny Castle, gives life to Nick Massi most impressively in a scene in which he goes on a tirade against DeVito’s egocentric ways.
Ashley Bruce, plays Valli’s neglected wife Mary Delgado. She brings an electric intensity to her scenes with Hacker, many of which include their arguments over his life on the road. (Read DCMTA’s feature on Bruce here).
Connor Lyon plays Lorraine, Valli’s on-the-road love interest. There’s a heartbreaking scene about the futility of their relationship. Sean McGee’s Crewe is an archetype of the shady music producer. McGee also plays other, ancillary parts. Andrés Acosta makes mobster Gyp DeCarlo urban but slightly menacing.
The shows rests on the music direction of Michael Kaish, the musical coordination of John Miller, and the orchestrations of Steve Orich. There is an upstage band: Anthony Brindisi, Katie Holmes and Kaish on keyboards; Max Caine on guitar; Carlos Holguin on bass; and Brett Beiersdorfer on drums. The dance moves impress throughout, thanks to Choreographer Sergio Trujillo and Dance Captain Katie Goffman.
Michael Clark provides astounding projection design, which includes everything from American Bandstand footage, bar neon signs, and cityscapes. Klara Zieglerova’s set includes a faux-iron catwalk, framed by spiral stairs on either side.
The show makes much use of scenery wagons, and lightning-fast scene and costume changes coordinated by Stage Manager Lia Jennings. Jess Goldstein’s costumes transport the audience through the 50s to the 90s, as does Charles G. LaPointe’s hair and wig design. Howell Binkley’s lighting design is old-school in its use of the singular spotlight.
With its mixture of great music and excellent drama, Jersey Boys is all the Christmas present you and your loved ones will ever need. Catch this musical this holiday season.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Jersey Boys plays through January 5, 2020, at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, call 1-800-514-3849, purchase in person at the National Theatre Box Office, or go online.
Note: Find future Jersey Boys tour stops here.