Saturday, April 11, 2009

Broward Center: Jersey Boys (3 1/2 Reviews)

The national tour of the Broadway hit musical Jersey Boys opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on April 8.

The book is written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by, of course, Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons. Des McAnuff directs a cast that includes Joseph Leo Bwarie, Matt Bailey, Nick Hujabre, and Steve Gouveia.

Christing Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Jersey Boys is, like Mamma Mia!, that rare jukebox musical that morphs into a Broadway phenomenon. But unlike Mamma Mia!, with its collection of great ABBA hits anchored to a silly story, Jersey Boys is solid gold both musically and theatrically.
...

The avalanche of great tunes, many performed with the guys wearing co-ordinated stage outfits and doing tightly choreographed moves as they play and sing, serve as a vivid reminder of just why the Four Seasons made it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Gaudio and Crewe created a heck of a catalog.
...

There is only one Frankie Valli, of course (and he's still on the road entertaining his fans), but Bwarie finds that just-right blend of natural voice and falsetto, and he's a fine actor. So are the other three -- Franklin as a young-but-savvy Gaudio, Bailey as the prickly DeVito, Gouveia (who doesn't quite land a few of Massi's solo low notes) as the brilliant arranger who just up and quit one day.

Jersey Boys, with a score that has both nostalgic power and the ability to move you in the moment, deftly mines the mythical elements in the story of four guys who fought for success and found that fame wasn't the end of the road. And despite the odds, it proves that the right jukebox musical can be something to treasure.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
As genres go, the jukebox musical rarely gets much respect. These shows built from existing songs, often of one particular composer or performer, usually come up short in critical admiration or awards. Think of Mamma Mia! (pasted together from the ABBA trunk) or All Shook Up (Elvis).

A distinct exception is Jersey Boys, the 2006 Best Musical Tony winner, an involving “behind the music” biography of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, motored by over two dozen of their song hits. The show... is a model of how it should be done, thanks to a fast-moving, Jersey joke-laden narrative by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, a first-rate cast led by Joseph Leo Bwarie as Valli and those nostalgia-laden songs written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe.
...

Two-time Tony-winning director Des McAnuff stages the production crisply on and around Klara Zieglerova’s Erector Set set. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo handles the precision movement routines that complement the group’s song stylings.
...

When John Lloyd Young originated the role of Valli on Broadway, he was hailed as a unique talent who would be difficult to replace. On tour, Bwarie disproves that concern, giving a triple-threat bravura performance, doing an uncanny job of vocal mimicry, but also displaying considerable acting chops and athletic dance skill.
...

The performers are all up to the show’s substantial tasks and occasionally have spotlight moments, but like their Four Seasons alter-egos, they are ultimately mere back-up to Valli.
...

Care was taken on all fronts putting Jersey Boys on tour... the creative team demonstrated that “jukebox musical” does not have to be a pejorative term, but we can still hope that other bio-shows about bygone singing groups do not follow.
Beau Higgins reviewed for BroadwayWorld.com:
Jersey Boys is one of those shows that I feared I might not like. This notion was dispelled about sixty seconds into the show when it caused me to have chills in places that I never knew I could have chills before. This musical is a champion from the top to the final curtain call.

Perhaps the most fascinating achievement is how beautifully the book works. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have pulled off quite a feat here. The book is compelling, and witty and never fails to be a perfect element in framing the next sensational number to take place.

The technical creatives have simply outdone most shows of the past. From the sets and costumes, to the lighting, projections, sound design and other theatrical wizardry, Jersey Boys contains what may be the most inspired and electric theatrical razzle dazzle since DREAMGIRLS.
...

The entire ensemble of this show is top notch without a weak leak peeking through. Matt Bailey and Steve Gouveia are simply perfect as THE FOUR SEASON's Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. Creating new levels for that top notch is Josh Franklin as Bob Gaudio. His singing is gorgeous, his looks are gorgeous and his performance is absolutely fetching, charming and engaging. Great, great work, Mr. Franklin.

Last night I fell in love with Joseph Leo Bwarie. I am not positive if I fell in love with Mr. Bwarie as Frankie Vallie or the performer himself. No matter, I can't wait to see what he does next.
...

Fresh and fantastic, this is a musical that will be loved by millions for a long time to come. Congratulations to all on this extraordinary achievement.
Rod Hagwood wrote something with a lot of sentence fragments for the Sun-Sentinel. I suppose it's a review:
A jukebox musical?

Surely "Jersey Boys" is more. It feels like more as you sit there vibrating in your theater seat to the thump thump of 30-plus hit pop songs immortalized by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

Singalong musicals have their place: they are suppose to be unabashed geezer tours, giving us boomers and seniors a whiff of our youth. Who doesn't want to hear the soundtracks to their lives all dusted-off, polished-up and staged with pop-n-flash?

"Jersey Boys" delivers. It has the requisite familiar-as-family songbook -- this one the infectious chart-toppers by tunesmith Bob Gaudio and lyricist Bob Crewe.
GAH! Maybe the Sun-Sentinel could get some Middle School students to review shows. Then we could excuse - or at least explain - sentences like this one:
Remarkably cinematic; there are close-ups, montages, backstage perspectives, silhouettes, pop art projections, live video all crisply unfolding like a multimedia scrap album. Ed Sullivan is channeled. Twice.
Remember when the Sun-Sentinel was worth reading? For years they had Jack Zink, an excellent journalist. They could have Bill Hirschman, who's been freelancing for them for years. Instead, we get a guy who can't write in complete sentences.

Jersey Boys will be rocking the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through May 3.

But that's not all: you can have lunch with Rick Elice, one of the co-writers of the show, on Saturday, April 18th.

4 comments:

El Derelicto de Oscar April 11, 2009 at 3:52 PM  

I had know idea Marshall Brickman wrote the book. He co-wrote Annie Hall and Manhattan, although Woody Allen gets all the credit.

C.L.J. April 13, 2009 at 3:27 PM  

That's why this is the most highly regarded "jukebox" musical: it's the only one with a great book.

Tina April 24, 2009 at 4:23 AM  

THIS IS THE BEST DAMNED SHOW EVER PRODUCED---AND I HAVE SEEN SEVERAL CASTS---THE BEST ONE IS IN CHICAGO, PARTICULARLY WITH STEVEN M GOLDSMITH AS THE LEAD SINGER FOR THE FRANKIE VALLI ROLE---A MUST SEE

Tina April 24, 2009 at 4:34 AM  

HAVING SEEN THE SHOW NUMEROUS TIMES IN VARIOUS LOCATIONS, A MUST SEE IS STEVEN M GOLDSMITH PLAY THE ROLE OF FRANKIE IN THE BROADWAY COMPANY (WHO UNDERSTUDIES THE ROLE), HE IS THE MOST CHARISMATIC AND TALENTED OF THEM ALL!!!

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