Wednesday, November 16, 2011
From left, Michael Lomenda, Joseph Leo Bwarie, Preston Truman Boyd, and John Gardiner play Nick Massi, Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, and Tommy DeVito in the musical "Jersey Boys" at the Bushnell through Nov. 6. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
‘Jersey Boys’ sensational at the Bushnell
HARTFORD — What could be better than a bunch of fantastic songs and a terrific, true story all wrapped up in one amazing musical?
“Jersey Boys” is back at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and it’s once again rocking the house with the pop songs that made The Four Seasons with Frankie Valli a music sensation of the ’50s and ’60s.
Not much has changed since the cast was here in 2009, including the fabulous Joseph Leo Bwarie, who practically channels Frankie Valli and is a star in his own right.
Bwarie isn’t in every show during the run at the Bushnell, and although the other Frankies are probably very good, try to see Bwarie if you can. He has the voice of an angel.
The fine Joseph Siravo also makes a return appearance as Gyp DeCarlo, the Mafia boss with a soft spot, and other characters.
Joseph Handley is back playing a number of characters, including producer Bob Crewe, with panache.
Des McAnuff, director, added a hip-hop number that started the show with The Four Seasons’ hit “Oh What a Night,” with Donald Webber Jr. playing a French Rap star, showing how well their music holds up today.
The story follows the lives of the four men from their rough and tumble beginnings in New Jersey and their struggles to find a way to break into the big time.
The leader of the band is Tommy DeVito, played by John Gardiner, a fast talking hood who got them into deep financial trouble with the Mafia and the IRS.
DeVito is good, but sometimes he talks too fast and rushes his lines, to the point where the audience missed some of the jokes.
All the actors are also musicians, or else they play air guitar very well.
Preston Truman Boyd doesn’t look at all like the real life Bob Gaudio, but he is excellent as the youth who wrote hit after hit, including his first, “Who Wears Short Shorts.”
It’s interesting that the man who introduced Gaudio to The Four Seasons was Joe Pesci, who was a lowly punk back then, eventually becoming the famous film actor we all know. Pesci is played with hyper squeakiness by Courter Simmons.
Michael Lomenda plays the curmudgeon Nick Massi, who is always complaining, and not without reason, about his sloppy roommate, DeVito.
Kara Tremel is notably strong as Valli’s first wife, Mary, who got Valli to add an “i” to his last name rather than a “y.” Her explanation for the “i” is very funny but not printable.
In fact, most of the characters use profanity in about every sentence they speak, and there are some sexy scenes, making the show not so good for children.
The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice is solid, giving different recollections of the four through time. As with any past memories, people have different perceptions of what actually happened and their stories gives each character depth.
The play mixes the past well, with projected video of different television shows The Four Seasons were on, including “American Bandstand” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and then project the stage actors singing, dressed all in black and white.
But the music is the thing, and here there are 20 of the songs by The Four Seasons, including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Bye Bye Baby”; and the list of hits goes on.
On opening night, the audience was ecstatic, but some treated the show like it was a music concert and were loudly singing along to the hits. If you feel you can’t hold back, please remember that as much as you love the music, others pay to hear the singers on stage.
“Jersey Boys” is a hit musical that has it all, playing through Sunday, Nov. 6.
Theater: The William H. Mortensen Hall at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.
Location:166 Capitol Ave. Hartford.
Production: Directed by Des McAnuff. Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Music by Bob Gaudio. Music directin, vocal arrangements, and incidental music by Ron Melrose. Lyrics by Bob Crewe. Choreography by Sergio Trujillo. Scenic design by Klara Zieglerova. Costume design by Jess Goldstein. Lighting design by Howell Binkley. Sound design by Steven Canyon Kennedy.
Running time: 2½ hours plus one 15-minute intermission.
Show times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinee performances Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., through Nov 6.
Tickets: Start at $25. Call 860-987-5900 or visit: www.bushnell.org.
Joseph Leo Bwarie ..... Frankie Valli
John Gardiner ......... Tommy DeVito
Preston Truman Boyd ... Bob Gaudio
Michael Lomenda ....... Nick Massi
Jonathan Hadley ....... Bob Crewe and others
Courter Simmons ....... Joey and others
Joseph Siravo ......... Gyp DeCarlo and others
Kara Tremel ........... Mary Delgado, Angel, and others
4 stars Excellent; 3 stars Good; 2 stars Fair; 1 star Poor