You’re Just Too Good to be True / Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You

Last night, we returned to our theatre pattern and saw Jersey Boys at the Ahmanson Theatre. Jersey Boys was the winner of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical (beating out “The Color Purple”, “Drowsy Chaperone”, and “The Wedding Singer”). Jersey Boys tells the story of the rise and fall of the musical group “The Four Seasons”, later “Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons”, beginning with their origins as a trio on the corner in Jersey to their reunion in 1990 after nearly 40 years when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jersey Boys” is an interesting duck of a musical. It isn’t a straight jukebox musical, because there is a story and it isn’t artificial (as one finds in shows like “All Shook Up” or “Forever Plaid”). However, it isn’t strictly a traditional musical either, for the songs really don’t serve to advance the plot or story; they establish the chronology (with a few exceptions, and those exceptions are out of chronological order to establish the mood, such as “My Eyes Adored You”). And yet the story is strangely compelling and told in an interesting fashion, weaving the recollections of each member of the Four Seasons. As such, whatever it is, this musical works and works well.

The star of the show, of course, is Frankie Castelluccio, who the world knows as Frankie Valli. But he didn’t start the nucleus of the group; that honor goes to Tommy DeVito, who was singing with his brother Nick DeVito (who didn’t join the group), and Nick Massi. Eventually, the group became a foursome after Joe Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci) introduced Bob Gaudio to the group. Gaudio wrote “Sherry” for Valli, and the rest is history. What he show fails to emphasize are the other members of the group: based on the credits to the songs, it looks like Bob Crewe (who is in the show) was more than their producer — he was also their lyrics writer. The show also fails to mention at all who was their drummer, and their drummer was a key part of their sound. My only guess is that he was a studio drummer and not part of the group. The story also fails to mention some other aspects of the story, such as Valli’s loss of hearing, the true timing of things, and “Grease”. Still, it was good.

The show starred the first National Touring Company. In the leads were Deven May (Tommy DeVito), Michael Ingersoll (Nick Massi), Rick Faugno (Frankie Valli), and Erich Bergen [MySpace] (Bob Gaudio). I should note that Sunday night was Ingersoll’s last night with the tour, and at the end of the curtain call, the cast gave him a special going away spotlight. All of these principles were excellent, in particular, Faugno (who does the role Thursdays and Sundays) as Valli was excellent in a role that had him singing almost every song. Others in the cast, playing multiple roles, were John Altieri, Miles Aubrey, Sandra DeNise, Nathan Klau, Brandon Matthieus, Jackie Seiden, Courter Simmons, Joseph Siravo, Melissa Strom, Leo Huppert (a bassest with “Blood, Sweat & Tears”), and Brian Silverman. Also deserving of credit were the Orchestra (conducted by Andrew Wilder assisted by Joe Elefante), who appears on-stage at various points, which consisted of Caren Cole, Joe Elefante and Andew Wilder on keyboards; Brian Silverman on guitar; Leo Huppert on bass; Mark Papazian on drums; Kurt Bacher and Christopher Miele on reeds; and Thomas E. Chubb on trumpet. It appears that a large number of the major cast plays instruments, but this isn’t credited.

The show had a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe. This production was directed by Des McAnuff, with choreography by Sergio Trujillo, and musical direction by Ron Melrose. Costumes were by Jess Goldstein, lighting by Howell Binkley, scenic design by Klara Zieglerova, and sound design by Steve Canyon Kennedy. It runs at the Ahmanson through August 31, 2007.

As an aside: The original title of this post was “Would my sister-in-law see this show?” My sister-in-law’s name is Sheri. From what I’ve been told, she hates the song.

Dining Note: We had dinner before the show at Weiland Brewery in Little Tokyo, on 1st Street. I think the concensus was that it was yummy. It is across from the Japanese American museum, and validation makes the parking $3… and it’s about 5 minutes from there to the Ahmanson parking lot. We found them through Rewards Network.

So, what’s coming up on our theatre calendar? On Friday, 7/20 @ 8:00pm we see “Zanna Don’t at the West Coast Ensemble. This is followed by “Can-Can” at The Pasadena Playhouse on 7/28 at 8:00pm; “Beauty and the Beast” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on 8/4 @ 2:00pm; the DCI 2007 World Championship Finals in Pasadena on 8/11 @ 5:00pm; and “Avenue Q” at the Ahmanson on 9/15 @ 2:00pm. We’re also debating the Hollywood Bowl… in particular, possibly Bernstein/Copland/Gershwin on 8/2, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on 8/24-25, or American Originals on 9/11.