I suspect some go to Jersey Boys just waiting for Frankie Valli to sing “too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you” in that high falsetto before belting out, “I love you baby.”
That’s certainly part of the fun, but I’m partial to the story of the Four Seasons and their rocky road to success. Sure, I know they sold 175 million records and made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but even seeing this show at the Orpheum a second time it’s easy to get hooked on the suspense as the group is threatened by one crisis after another.
With the sure hand of writer Marshall Brickman on the script, it’s enough of a roller-coaster ride to keep an edge until the four sign off with farewell speeches at the end. And that works for me even better than it did at first viewing.
For example, I expected to be intrigued again by story of little Frankie Castelluccio (yeah, it’s a mouthful so he became Valli) hooking up with thuggish Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey). And why not enjoy the addition of Bob Gaudio (Corey Jeacoma), fresh from his hit with “Short Shorts”, as the song-writing key to their rise.
But this cast makes the fourth man, tall Nick Massi (Keith Hines), more memorable, brightening the darker moments with laughs from his mobster monotone as he rants about sharing the road with De Vito. Speaking of the mob, Thomas Fiscella makes the most of his role as a mob-connected don who does Frankie (Aaron De Jesus) a favor then weeps while Valli returns the favor by singing “My Mother’s Eyes.”
De Jesus is smaller than most we’ve seen in the lead role, thus more like the real Frankie, and both more believably bullied by DeVito and yet more convincingly a feisty Jersey boy. Most of what might be called choreography in this musical comes from the coordinated moves by the Four Seasons, their name after struggling with Four Lovers and others.
And those dance moves, including Frankie skidding to the stage floor, explain why the show’s fun facts record that he requires daily repairs to his 15 costumes and new pants each week.
With all the songs from Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, we get only a few touches of their creative inspiration for the likes of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (a Rhonda Fleming retort as she’s slapped around in a western) or “Walk Like a Man.” And it’s not all harmonizing with Valli singing lead; he has sentimental solos on “My Eyes Adored You,” “Fallen Angel” and that show-stopping “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”
The women’s roles don’t dominate, serving mostly as eye candy portraying the lascivious life on the road, with a few exceptions led by Kristen Paulicelli as Mary Delgado, Frankie’s first wife and the mother of their daughter. Perhaps the least palatable part of the show comes from the screechy voices of the Angels, a girls’ group confined to one number.
Consistently appealing was the use of such projections as comic book drawings to portray policemen or that “Big Girls Don’t Cry” blonde with a tear sneaking out. And we got to see Ed Sullivan himself introducing the foursome on his really big TV show.
The musical just closed on Broadway two months ago after running since 2005 and winning Tony and other honors. It runs here through Sunday.
Jersey Boys continues at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday in the Omaha Performing Arts Broadway series at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St., in downtown Omaha. Tickets from $35 to $140 are available at ticketomaha.com, by calling 402.345.0606 or visiting the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.