Oh, what a night indeed as the Tony Award-winning phenomenon, “Jersey Boys” opened at the Ahmanson Theatre on Thursday, May 18th for a 6-week sit down in Los Angeles, CA. The behind-the-scenes musical gives audiences a glimpse into the lives of Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi better known as The Four Seasons. The story begins with the groups rise to idol status in the 1960s and documents the career highs and lows, eventually leading to their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, some 30 years later.
For the Los Angeles engagement, the touring cast is joined by “Dancing with the Stars” alum and singer-songwriter, Mark Ballas as the renowned, Valli. The multi-talented crooner garnered huge applause as he walked on stage. You’ve heard of Beatlemania? Well, this is Jerseymania! All kidding aside, the real thrill was Ballas’ vocal performance. Like the original singer, Ballas too possesses a trademark falsetto that will joyfully blow your senses.
No shortage of incredible talent, the other 3 members of the pop-quartet exuded perfect vocals and magnetism as their counterpart. Tommy DeVito, the groups founder-guitarist is played by Matthew Dailey. Boy wonder songwriter-keyboardist, Bob Gaudio is played by Cory Jeacoma and bassist (and funny man) Nick Massi is played by Keith Hines. Each take turns narrating his own side of the story, which is structured into four chapters: spring, summer, fall and winter. Dailey, who was battling a high-grade fever, the night we were in attendance still performed impeccably, and Jeacoma handled a microphone mishap in the shows finale like a true professional – never missing a beat. Jeacoma, I might add also shared great chemistry with Ballas, authenticating Valli and Gaudio’s friendship and side partnership.
Likewise, another successful component to the show were key players like David LaMarr, who continuously stole the spotlight from his co-stars. No easy feat considering the immense talent recruited for this production. From a French-rapper to an Ohio cop, LaMarr was a force to be reckoned with. Besides his acting performance, his vocal chomps proved powerful and potent. And those high notes? Simply put, just too good to be true!
In addition to the baby-boomers mouthing the words to chart-toppers like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Bye Bye Baby,” “Rag Doll,” and “Walk Like A Man,” the younger generation of theatregoers (perhaps in attendance to see Ballas?) were also bopping their heads along to these Top-40 classics. The string of hits written by Bob Gaudio and record producer Bob Crewe (played here by Barry Anderson) were spectacular then, but uphold iconic status now. Musically speaking, one awe-inspiring moment is when “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” a single that almost wasn’t released, and a huge milestone for Valli’s career was performed after much anticipation.
As for the choreography by Sergio Trujillo, the group’s signature finger snapping routines were performed completely in sync, with the exception of a few breakout moves by Ballas, of course. Let’s face it we’d all be disappointed if we didn’t see some of the Mirrorball winners fancy footwork thrown in for kicks. Scenic designer Klara Zieglerova added a proscenium to the stationary set piece consisting of a steel-platform, two spiral staircases and a large projection screen, a throwback to the Broadway production, but omitted from the rest of the US tour.
Much of the mainstream success of “Jersey Boys” can be contributed to co-book writers, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. They paid respect to the era of doo-woppers, classic rides and short shorts nicely. After 11 years on Broadway, 9 years in London’s West End, 8 years in Las Vegas, a hit-motion picture and now the national tour, there’s a reason why everyone is consumed by “Jerseymania!”
This production of “Jersey Boys” never falters, instead, gets even more fascinating as their stories unfold. It doesn’t “sugarcoat” the real-life events that happened to the group like their run-ins with the law, mob ties, lost of family due to drug overdose and the excessive gambling and tax debts. The jukebox musical also shared a few little known facts about the band, reading like a page out of a history textbook. For example, did you know actor, Joe Pesci played an instrumental part in the groups formation?
“Jersey Boys” runs now through June 24, 2017. Tickets are available by calling 213-972-4400 or online at http://www.centertheatregroup.org, or by visiting the Center Theatre Group box office at the Ahmanson Theatre. Ticket prices start at $35. The Ahmanson Theatre is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles.
Photos courtesy of Jim Carmody