June 12--I'm no great fan of jukebox musicals. The stories too often are contrived, with hit music stuffed into outlandish and silly plots. Call me a cynic, but they seem more about money, money, money than good musical theater.
However, "Jersey Boys" has me singing a different tune, and tuning in to all things Franki Valli and the Four Seasons on my smartphone radio app.
The touring production of the hit Broadway musical arrived in Salt Lake City last week. It is a show not to be missed as its continues through Sunday at the Capitol Theatre.
This is a jukebox musical that works because the story is authentic, heartfelt, funny and moving.
And then there's the amazing songbook from this uniquely American group of tough guys -- the epitome of cool during the 1960s. It's hard to go wrong with a cavalcade of hummable songs like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," "My Eyes Adored You," "Bye Bye Baby," "Rag Doll" and "Who Loves You."
The musical is cleverly broken into four parts and told through the eyes of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Four Seasons, which included Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. The story follows four blue-collar kids from New Jersey who became one of the greatest successes in pop music history.
It includes the group's highs -- some really astounding highs, thanks to Valli's power falsetto -- and their lows. It's a fascinating story and an intriguing peek into America's music history. This talented foursome wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide -- all before they were 30.
The show reaches its high point when Gaudio, played in an understated but superb fashion by Jason Kappus, stands on a elevated catwalk behind Valli as he sings "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You." The number delivers an emotional power punch, especially when a shiny brass section emerges from the wings onto the catwalk as backup to Nick Cosgrove, who does an impressive job channeling Valli. It's a touching, tender moment between a couple of tough Newark boys, and it is at the heart of this story.
The faint of heart should be aware the show does include some colorful Jersey-style language, including a number of f-bombs and some sexual references. In some ways, "Jersey Boys" is a little like watching an episode of "The Sopranos" -- except the music is much better.
If the show does take any false steps, it's because it doesn't get to music fast enough. "Jersey Boys" really doesn't get cooking until after the backstory of the group is told.
But once the group does get together and you hear a remarkable re-creation of "Sherry" -- you begin to understand the glowing accolades including from the New York Post, which simply declared the production "too good to be true."
I will add to that by simply saying about this jukebox musical: "I Love You Baby."
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