Four guys from New Jersey form one of the most successful musical groups of the 1960s. This is the story of The Four Seasons. This is Jersey Boys and it is currently playing at Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre.
Few things thrill me more than walking out of a theatre and knowing that I’ve seen something truly special. This show didn’t just hit a home run. It hit an out of the park, ball leaving my scope of vision home run.
While I am familiar with the music of the Four Seasons, I was unfamiliar with their personal story. And what a story! The Four Seasons were no saints. Petty crime, infidelities, family struggles, tax issues, group strife, debt to the wrong people were just some of the problems plaguing the group. Aside from their gripping story, I even learned there truly is a difference between The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice do an incredible job sharing this fascinating tale as each of the Four Seasons presents his own viewpoint on what went on in the group and shows the powerful influence of perception. Throw in the group’s legendary hits and you’ve got a compelling show from start to finish.
The entire ensemble did a superlative job. Each was always in the moment and really fleshed out the little world of the musical. Some of the outstanding performances featured were supplied by Grace Bobber who is a combustible fireball as Valli’s first wife, Mary Delgado. Steve Isom is a force as fixer, Gyp DeCarlo. Lauren Echausse has some diverse turns as the lead singer of the Angels whose impressive pipes are matched by her dimwittedness and a sweet turn as Valli’s lover, Lorraine. Anthony De Marte provides some levity as Joe Pesci (yes, THAT Joe Pesci) who played a key role in the formation of the Four Seasons.
I was stunned to learn that this was Michael Ingersoll’s directing debut as he has the poise and polish of a director with numerous shows under his belt. The energy of this show is relentless. It starts at a fever pitch and just gets higher, pulling the audience in deeper and deeper. His knowledge of the beats is spot on and he knew how to emphasize each crucial moment with proper setup, tension, and resolution. Ingersoll guided his actors to top quality performances with well defined interpretations and precision pacing and cue pickups.
Depending on one’s point of view, Ryan Williams’ Tommy DeVito is either the guy you hate to love or the guy you love to hate. Williams just oozes confidence and charm as the founder of the Four Seasons. DeVito is a lovable scoundrel and con artist and it’s hard to separate the truth from his bull because it is so finely blended together. He claims to have watched over the group as a big brother and handled the seedier sides of show business during their salad days and there probably was some truth to that. But he can also be a real prick and the way he rubs the others the wrong way and his own personal financial troubles nearly sink the group at their peak. Williams deftly portrays all sides of DeVito’s complex personality getting you to despise, respect, or even be amused by him at his discretion.
Jason Michael Evans is an ideal Nick Massi. At one point, Evans’ Massi compares himself to Ringo Starr and there is a lot of truth to that. According to Evans’ interpretation, Massi was the most easygoing member of the group and his gift for harmony was equal to Starr’s gift for rhythm due to its intense precision. Evans also brings a real depth to Massi with his being uncomfortable with success as its stress leads him to drink and the temptations of the road inspire him to screw around on his family. Eventually the weight of the business forces Massi to make a life altering decision and Evans handles that moment with a gracefully understated honesty.
Bob Gaudio is to The Four Seasons what Pete Townshend is to The Who. Gaudio was the genius songwriter of the group and already had a major hit at the age of 15 with “Short Shorts” before he joined The Four Seasons. Erik Keiser is a sheer joy in the role as he plays Gaudio with a wise beyond his years vibe and keen intelligence. Keiser’s Gaudio is nobody’s fool given how he negotiates his way into the group as an equal partner and never loses sight of the business aspect of music. What I liked best about Keiser’s take is that he is fully aware of his role in the group’s rise, but isn’t arrogant about it. It was just the truth.
Courter Simmons is gold in the role of Frankie Valli. Valli has the most distinctive falsetto in pop music and is instantly recognizable. When I closed my eyes during Simmons’ singing, I would swear it was Valli himself singing as Simmons perfectly emulates Valli’s falsetto and singing style. Simmons’ singing is well matched by his acting and he does beautiful work with Valli’s arc. Evolving from the shy teenager whom DeVito wrangles into the group to the strong, confident leader who never forgets family. Simmons skillfully handles the more dramatic moments of Valli’s life from his fractured relationships with his first wife and youngest daughter to dealing with the implosion of the original Four Seasons.
Brett Kristofferson and his band were so subtle and skillful that it took me until the end of the first act to realize that the actors weren’t playing their own instruments. His music direction is spot on as the four principals nail the iconic songs to the floor and are always in perfect harmony. Courtney Oliver’s choreography is exactly what’s needed for the show. There aren’t any flashy dance numbers, just the well-organized movements of the singers as they perform, though she gets a wonderful big moment in the curtain call. Ryan J. Ziringibl has designed a simple set of stairs, walls, and fence, but it is quite effective as it allows furniture to roll in and out to change the scenes. Jonathan A. Reed’s lights greatly enhance the story from making you feel you’re at a concert or club to a fine moment when you see the group performing from a backstage point of view and his stage lights fuel that illusion. Garth Dunbar’s costumes bring you back in time with the perfect suits and dresses from the late 50s to the late 60s. Jon Robertson’s sounds help bolster the show and keep it in fine form.
This is an excellent show and I highly encourage you to grab a ticket while you can because they are selling like hotcakes. For myself, this show was a superior introduction to Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre and I look forward to my inevitable return.
Jersey Boys plays at Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre through July 3. Showtimes are 2pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and 2pm and 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets cost $46 and can be purchased at the Box Office, visiting www.lyceumtheatre.org, calling 660-837-3311, or visiting Wood & Huston Bank in Marshall, MO where single tickets can be purchased from Michelle England from 9am-3pm Mon-Fri. Due to some of the subject matter, parental discretion is advised for this show. Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre is located at 114 High Street in Arrow Rock, MO.