I experienced a lot of emotions during last night’s opening-night production of “Jersey Boys” at the Hippodrome—laughter, tears, some sort of indescribable hometown pride for my non-native Jersey—but one prevailed above all: consistent, jaw-dropping awe over just how high Frankie Valli (Aaron de Jesus) could sing.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve heard Four Seasons songs in my day, but there was something so striking about hearing Valli’s distinct falsetto (or rather, de Jesus’ impression of his falsetto) in person. In fact, my entire “Jersey Boys” experience echoed that sentiment—I had a vague inkling of the show’s plot points before seeing it, but watching the Tony Award-winner unfold before me was surprisingly emotional.
What It Is: Called a “jukebox musical,” the show chronicles the rise and (spoiler alert) fall of the Four Seasons, later known as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It’s organized into four seasons (“SPRING” was a favorite), and narrated alternately by each of the original Seasons members, with their bevy of hits interwoven throughout. Both cast and set are sparse; fewer than 20 came out for the final bows, and an iron catwalk/fire escape set the scene from Jersey to Las Vegas, aided only by the occasional prop—the iconic street lamp under which the band formed, notably—and a large screen upon which street signs, pop art, stunning light displays and the Jersey skyline were projected.
Why You Should See It: The show is a ton of fun, funny and moving and well-acted (Matthew Dailey’s tough guy Tommy DeVito comes to mind, as well as a hilarious Barry Anderson as flamboyant producer Bob Crewe). The mainly-middle-aged-and-older audience was dancing in their seats throughout, and more than a few were singing along (looking at you, lady across the aisle—and you, Mom). At several points, in fact, audience enthusiasm operated as a theatrical device—we were often a stand-in for the actual audience at Four Seasons’ tour stops or “American Bandstand” performances, and the actors would preen and aw-shucks to our hoots and hollers, which made us feel uniquely involved in the story. One caveat: It’s not so family-friendly…unless your family’s got a Jerseyian affinity for the f-bomb and a very healthy approach to sexuality.
The Takeaway: As my Mom and I danced out to the lobby during the intermission, humming the oo-wee-oo-oo from “Walk Like a Man,” the usher smiled at us. “You’ll be singing for the rest of the night,” she laughed. She was right: Nearly 24 hours later, I’m still in an unusually good mood—and still struggling to hit Frankie’s high notes.
“Jersey Boys” is playing at the Hippodrome from Sept. 27-Oct. 2. Tickets: $42-$147. www.france-merrickpac.com