The cast of "Jersey Boys" (Courtesy of National Theatre)
The cast of "Jersey Boys" (Courtesy of National Theatre)

The popular jukebox musical “Jersey Boys,” now running through Jan. 5 at the National Theatre in northwest D.C., sensationalizes the formation, success and descent of the 1960s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame group The Four Seasons.

Doo-wop harmonies, nostalgic rock anthems, loyalty, profanity, mobsters and, of course, Frankie Valli (expertly portrayed by Jon Hacker) with a New Jersey scene produces a happy crowd.

The musical is structured in a documentary-style format as four “seasons,” each narrated by a different member of the band who gives his own perspective on its history and music. Each version is substantially different but equally plausible while peppering humor throughout delivering a superb show.

The play begins in Paris circa 2000, as a French-language rap version of the group’s “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” that hit No. 1 on the charts is foreshadowed.

From a starving quartet singing under a light pole, several group name changes, jail time, to full-floor splits, unexpected challenges, and an astonishing octave range, this is an American success story from rags to riches and back to rags.

In “Spring” the lifelong criminal named Tommy DeVito assembles the quartet that eventually becomes The Four Seasons, named after the bowling alley that coincidently rejected one of their performances. The fabulous four are the “not properly socialized” gambler and opportunist DeVito (Corey Greenan), practical and loyal Nick Massi (Michael Milton) the star falsetto and leader Frankie Castelluccio (later Valli), and the mastermind songwriter Bob Gaudio (Eric Chambliss).

Famed actor Joe Pesci (“Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “My Cousin Vinny”) was a friend of group member Tommy DeVito. Pesci was around during the group’s formation and is said to be responsible for introducing DeVito and Valli to singer/songwriter Bob Gaudio.

With the help of Bob Crewe (Sean McGee) the group’s flamboyant manager, and a lot of moxie, the foursome print a permanent memory in our hearts and minds with several timeless hits.

Their top songs include “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry,” “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “My Eyes Adored You,” “Stay,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” Who Loves You,” “Working My Way Back to You” and “Rag Doll,” among others.

The friends’ loyalties are stretched to the limit when DeVito attempts to “hit on” Valli’s girlfriend and when DeVito gets too deep in debt with the mob. The famous “handshake deal” agreement leaves Frankie and Bobby to raise the $1 million in order to pay off Gyp DeCarlo (Andrés Acosta). Frankie’s marriage to Mary Delgado (Ashley Bruce) dissolves due to distance and a daughter addicted to drugs.

The group faces the coldest moments in their career during “Winter” and one by one fall apart, giving Valli a chance to start his solo career.

Several scenes involve heavy smoking of herbal cigarettes which leaves the theater in a constant fog. Some may get lost during the few scenes where the actors’ backs are turned to the audience. The group reunites, giving a most riveting performance in the finale with “Who Loves You?”

Andy Williams, Madcon, The Tremeloes, Lauryn Hill, The Spinners and many other artists have covered the Four Seasons’ hits to great success, and the group itself sold 175 million records worldwide. But in “Jersey Boys,” the audience discovers the price the chart-busting group pays to reach such heights.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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