“When everything dropped away and all there was was the music. That was the best.” Jersey Boys brings to Madison a raw portrayal of the pursuit of success, family, and (of course) the iconic music of The Four Seasons.
Photo: Jeremy Daniel
The actors stepping into the shoes of these Rock and Roll Hall of Famers live up to and exceed expectations. Aaron De Jesus, playing frontman Frankie Valli, embodies 30 years of character development in a matter of hours onstage. De Jesus transitions Valli from a doe-eyed teenager, to an accomplished musician, to a jilted star-- and, despite the clear changes between each stage, the growth is fluid and seamless. During showstoppers such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”, “I’m in the Mood for Love”, and “Fallen Angel”, De Jesus’ countertenor fills the Overture Hall with a crisp, clean vocal timbre, akin to a muted trumpet one might hear in a jazz club.
Matthew Dailey (as Tommy DeVito) and Keith Hines (as Nick Massi) both take a back seat to De Jesus’ spotlight at the opening of the show. However, as the trio progresses and Valli melts into the group sound, Dailey and Hines each reveal hidden layers to their characters. Dailey, who had previously put up a brawny front, softens DeVito and exposes a more humorous side to the founder. In early numbers, Hines’ Massi could be easily mistaken for a nameless ensemble member, simply there to sing a third harmony. Then, as the story continues, he also blossoms in his role, broadcasting utter hilarity in his vocal delivery and comedic timing.
As Valli says in his narration, Bob Gaudio was the final piece to the puzzle that would become The Four Seasons. That line is illustrated flawlessly through performance. While gentle banter and an energetic buzz keep the narrative afloat in early scenes, Jersey Boys truly begins to flourish when Cory Jeacoma steps onstage as Bob Gaudio. From the first song the quartet sings together to their final bows, the group dynamic is realized and rock idols are born on a Madison stage.
The projection and lighting work of Klara Zieglerova (Scenic Designer) and Howell Binkley (Lighting Designer) adds a nuance vital to bringing an era to life. Tight spotlights track as different cast members walk, run, and dance up, down, and around the dual level set, giving dramatic flair to something as simple as narration between scenes. Zieglerova incorporates moving screens into the set, creating dozens of unique locations. Pop art, bar signs, and the seasons (that is, the weather sort) are all illustrated through these projected images.
Jersey Boys takes a group from a previous era and reintroduces their music and their journey to audiences of all ages. In the words of the show, The Four Seasons are “like that bunny on TV with the battery. [They] just keep going and going and going. Chasing the music. Trying to get home.” Between a wonderfully committed cast and a practically flawless technical team, the story of Frankie Valli and his legendary quartet finds its home in Jersey Boys.