‘Jersey Boys:’ Hitting the high notes in intimate venue at Walker Farm Tony winning jukebox musical dives into rock history

The Four Seasons perform for a television audience. <small>All photos copyrighted by Hubert Schriebl.</small>

The Four Seasons perform for a television audience. All photos copyrighted by Hubert Schriebl.

By Lorien Strange
©2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

I’m sitting 15 feet from Tommy DeVito as he’s riffing on how he’s gotten little Frankie Valli to start singing with his group, but it feels as though we’re much closer as the cozy glow of neon signs in the background nudge the scene forward.

Because the Weston Playhouse, the Weston Theater Company’s usual venue for musicals, suffered heavy flood damage last July, director John Simpkins and the creative team of Jersey Boys have reimagined the rock ’n’ roll journey of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons for the smaller space at Walker Farm. The obligatory balcony’s staircases have landings leading to platforms for the live musicians, a visible and unobtrusive reminder of the artistry behind the hit songs.

Without onstage crew, the company slides, shuffles and leaps through song and scene transitions before lounging purposefully across the minimalistic set furniture to watch the Four Seasons perform, puffing cigarettes to boot.

The famous friends themselves are larger than life yet intimate even at the height of fame, and they aren’t afraid to lock eyes with the audience and flirt, share a joke or make a confession.

Each of the boys has a chance to narrate the show, and each insists that the last guy’s got the story wrong. Played by JP Qualters, Tommy DeVito spreads himself as wide as his smile across the stage, and his determination to be seen as the linchpin of the group makes his insecurities both offputting and endearing.

Sweater-vested Aidan Cole as Bobby Gaudio has all the arrogant semi-intellectualism of the songwriter, and William Spinnato’s comfortable baritone as Nick Massi gives the group much-needed balance in both speaking and singing.

The Angels perform 'My Boyfriend's Back.'

The Angels perform ‘My Boyfriend’s Back.’

Simpkin’s unifying vision of “the purity of the streetlamp” shines through in Adam Marino’s portrayal of Valli. From awkward teen mumbling “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” to wary hit soloist in “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” Valli and his iconic falsetto cut through the glitz to deliver a humble love for singing with friends under a streetlamp instead of a spotlight.

As the group evolves throughout the show, so do their performance blazers. Costume designer Tracy Christensen brings us back to the ’50s and ’60s while giving the characters room to grow with gangly pinstripes in “I Go Ape,” classic radiant red with “Sherry,”and finally mature formality in black near the end of the show.

Gabrielle Harker, Allie Siebold and Elaine Cotter dazzle as the Angels in form-fitting mini-dresses that sparkle more than the disco ball above them. Harker channels the kind professionalism of Frankie’s journalist girlfriend Lorraine in a tweed skirt suit, Siebold plays runaway Francine Valli in a crochet cardigan, and Cotter takes on Mary Delgado’s no-nonsense humor with satin-clad dignity.

The show doesn’t skimp on the grittier side of Jersey life. Thick strings of curse words become harsh but fitting punctuation between breezy musical numbers. Young Frankie is scammed out of his car by a faked murder scene, and Tommy’s dangerous friends and enemies catch up with him as the golden age of the group’s friendships falls apart.

The Four Seasons and ensemble at the group's induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame induction.

The Four Seasons and ensemble at the group’s induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction.

The boys don’t always stick to each other through thick and thin, but the audience stays close to every one of them. “Is this like being in a f—-in’ time machine, or what?” Tommy declares as the group performs for its 1990 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction. Doubtless, many audience members felt they had traveled back to their teen years as they needed no invitation to get up on their feet for the finale, dancing and clapping along with familiar songs and characters.

Jersey Boys, which has won four Tonys, is a big musical in a small space, with all the high-energy fun you expect from the show with the intimacy of a nightclub.

Jersey Boys is playing at Walker Farm through July 13, with a 2.5 hour runtime, including intermission. Tickets are $25 to $69, and are selling fast. Click here or contact the Weston box office at 802-824-5288. Be aware that the production contains strong language and a simulated gunshot.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.