By Daniel Skora
Their songs were about everything that was important to the lives of young adults in the sixties. First and foremost were the ones with the girls’ names. Some of the group’s biggest hits, “Sherry”, “Ronnie”, “Dawn”, “Marianne”, and “Marlena”, reflected names that were popular at the time. There were songs that suggested modes of behavior, like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like A Man”. There were also songs that focused on the realities of love relationships, like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “Working My Way Back To You”, “Beggin’”, and “Let’s Hang On”.
The Four Seasons were one of the most successful groups of their time, selling over 100 million records worldwide. They charted hit after hit even while The Beatles and other groups from the British Invasion were dominating the music scene. Their songs and their story are what “Jersey Boys”, now appearing onstage at The Fisher Theatre, is all about.
The musical opened on Broadway in 2005 and was an immediate hit. It won a Tony for Best Musical in 2006 and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album in 2007. The current touring company is the third go round for “Jersey Boys” at the Fisher, and the musical shows no sign of letting up. Part of its success is due to the fact that the show is not your typical jukebox musical. All those great hits the group created are framed by a story that is not only factual, but would play well even without the songs.
For years, Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey), Frankie Valli (Aaron De Jesus), and Nick Massi (Keith Hines), paid their dues in the music business, performing in local clubs and singing back-up for other recording artists. A succession of attempts at finding both a name and a sound finally had them connecting with singer, songwriter and musician Bob Gaudio (Drew Seeley) who, along with producer Bob Crewe (Barry Anderson), gave them “Sherry”, their breakthrough hit.
Mirroring the group’s name, the show is divided into four “seasons”. Spring recounts the group’s formative years; Summer finds the group propelled to stardom with a string of hits and going on the road to perform. Fall has the group still turning out hits, but experiencing dissension among its members. Winter shows the group restructuring with new members and Valli pursuing a solo career.
“Jersey Boys”, so named because all of its members came from New Jersey, continues to attract new fans even while maintaining a devoted base of repeat patrons. The current production has all the drive and exhilarating music of the previous ones. De Jesus is impressive as Valli, and when he sings, it’s easy to imagine the man himself onstage belting out one of his hits in that amazing falsetto voice. An otherwise inauspicious stage is framed by stylish scaffolding that allows entrances to be forecast and exits to linger. Over thirty musical numbers are covered by band lead by Jonathan Smith.
“Jersey Boys” covers a time when America bristled with cultural, political, and social turmoil. In addition, the members of the group were going through their own personal turbulence: scrapes with the law, jail time, dealings with the mob, non payment of taxes, and strife and division within their own tightly knit group. The music of The Four Seasons always managed to remain above the fray. The show is about the music business and how the highs of fame are all too often undercut by the accompanying lows of personal failures. But it’s the joyous, infectious, hand-clapping sound of feel-good music that’s the star of this show, and when one song from the score of this lively musical ends, you can hardly wait until the next one begins.
The book for “Jersey Boys – The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons” is by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Music is by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe. The show runs through December 6th. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 1-800-982-2787, online at www.BroadwayinDetroit.com or www.ticketmaster.com, and at the Fisher Theatre Box Office. Additional information is available by calling 313-872-1000. For more information on the “Jersey Boys” national tour, visit www.JerseyBoysTour.com.