A so-called "jukebox musical" is an ideal vehicle to lace a story with a massive amount of hit songs that the public already loves, and Jersey Boys might be the ultimate example of the form.
Based on career of pioneering doo-wop boy band The Four Seasons, the hit show currently making its Utah debut with a run at the Capitol Theatre is a savvy blend of the band's distinct song catalog and a story that has all the drama and tension needed to appeal to large audiences--even without the songs to rely on.
Formed as a classic doo-wop group by small-time crook Tommy DeVito (Nicolas Dromard), The Four Seasons sound evolved with the additions of each of its members--the quiet, steady bass man Nick Massi (Brandon Andrus), the savant-like songwriter with a head full of hits and harmonies Bob Gaudio (Jason Kappus), and of course the man whose falsetto croon is THE signature aspect of The Four Seasons' sound, Frankie Vallie (Nick Cosgrove).
Together, the quartet rose from ignored road warriors reliant on loan sharks and mob-connected friends to global superstars who sold more than 100 million albums. Like virtually every group you've ever heard of, though, the relationships within the group were constantly strained due to jealousy, creative differences and outright deception. It's truly remarkable that the group survived to become as popular as they did.
The four lead actors in this traveling production all do an excellent job handling the acting and musical duties required of them. The play is divided into four "seasons," with each member of the group taking over as narrator for different seasons, telling the story of the band from their respective perspectives. It's a great construct for telling the story of the band and filling the show with as many hits as possible. Older songs like "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" elicited raucous cheers from the audience I watched with Wednesday night, and later fare like "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and "Working My Way Back to You" helped deliver an emotional finale that earned the standing ovation that followed.
The production is slick beginning to end, and the set is one of the best I've seen. Not only did scenes flow into each other easily thanks to constantly moving parts on stage, but a video screen above the action served as a live TV screen when the band performed for the American Bandstand cameras at one point. At other times, the screen showcased animation that helped fill out the narrative of the show. The creativity in Jersey Boys comes from more than just The Four Seasons' deep catalog.
Whether you're an old fan of the band, or simply interested in a high-energy slice of American rock and pop history, Jersey Boys will serve you well. And you just might hurt yourself trying to hit those high notes from the songs that will stick in your head well after the curtain drops.
Jersey Boys runs through June 16 at Capitol Theatre. Tickets range from $40 to $125, and are available through ArtTix outlets.
(All photos courtesy of Broadway in Utah).