“Jersey Boys” gives an intimate look at the lives of four hometown boys who made it big

Photo by Joan Marcus. (l to r) Adam Zelasko, Hayden Milanes, Jason Kappus and Nicolas Dromard.

“Jersey Boys” has returned to Los Angeles for a three-week run at the Pantages in Hollywood through Oct. 19.  If you missed it the first time, do not miss it again.

The super slick, well-crafted 2006 Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award®-winning Best Musical about Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, tells the true story of how four blue-collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop music history. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were 30. The show features many of their #1 hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” “Dawn” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” among many others.

Under the original direction of Des McAnuff, there are lots of laughs, great rock and roll music and a realistic look at how the group got started in 1963.  The show includes the difficulties faced in staying together, the groups eventual breakup, and ultimate survival in the music industry. Broken into four segments titled Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, each of the quartet narrates a segment, giving their own unique perspective on the group’s history.

The originator of the group, Tommy DeVito (Nicolas Dromard, proved he is the backbone of the group and the production), narrates the Spring segment. He shares how the group got started, as a trio, (Tommy, Frankie and Nick)  singing on street corners in New Jersey, getting into trouble with the law and spending time in jail, while keeping their dream of stardom alive.

The group’s outsider, Bob Gaudio (Jason Kappus) narrates Summer.  He was asked to join the group after having a big hit with “Who Wears Short Shorts?”  Bob was brought in to write songs and to complete the quartet since trios were going out of style. Success followed with their first hit “Sherry” in 1964. 

Nick Massi (Adam Zelasko), Frankie’s brother, narrates Fall, taking us through the financial woes that plagued the group when DeVito’s gambling and tax evasion caused Mafia friend Gyp DeCarlo (Thomas Fiscella) to arrange a loan which Valli agreed to pay off through constant work, playing every club cross country. DeVito was pushed out, and moved to Las Vegas.  Nick used the excuse that he wanted off the road to go home to his family to leave the group.

Winter is narrated by Frankie Valli (Hayden Milanes, perfectly channeling the “voice” that assured the group’s success).  He talks about the sadness in his life through broken marriages and the loss of his beloved daughter Francine, who wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps but died unexpectedly at age 22 of a drug overdose.  The show ends when all four original Four Seasons reunite at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, each sharing what it meant to each of them to be part of one of the most successful early rock and roll bands.

All four performers bring such life and joy to the songs, singing them in the same perfect harmonies as the original group with Milanes’ falsetto voice is a dead ringer for Valli’s. With the group’s music being so universal, it was understandable that many in the audience could not help but sing along during the show.  Had we been able to get up and dance, I am sure many would have done so – me included.

The phenomenal quick paced staging takes place on a multi-level tiered metal walkway set with stairs on each side leading down to the stage, designed by Klara Zieglerova.  With the orchestra playing beneath the walkway center stage, a large screen is often lowered in the background for projections.  Scenic elements roll in or are carried in by the actors, making each scene flow impeccably while one of the Four Seasons narrates what we are about to see.  Jess Goldstein’s costuming enhances every scene, taking the group from their street smart style to their trademark multi-colored tuxedo jackets. The entire show seems to float along effortlessly, so well-honed in this touring company.

The entire ensemble, starting with the magnificent work of Milanes, Dromard, Kappus and Zelasko, is sensational.  Standouts include Barry Anderson as gay record producer Bob Crewe.  Marlana Dunn, Jaycie Dotin and Leslie Rochette entertain as the Angels with “My Boyfriend’s Back” while Dunn plays Valli’s long-suffering wife Mary and Dotin is a reporter who falls for Valli are spectacular.

“Jersey Boys,” the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, directed by Des McAnuff continues at the Pantages in Hollywood through October 19 only, with performances daily except Mondays, with matinees added on Saturday and Sunday.

The show runs 2 hours and 35 minutes (including one 15-minute intermission) and is recommended for ages 12 and older. Children under 5 will not be admitted to the theatre. All patrons must have a ticket regardless of age.

More information and tickets at http://hollywoodpantages.com/.