Jersey Boys takes Nashville by storm
by Leah Wright | photos courtesy of Joan Mason
(Pictured above: Corey Greenan, Tommaso Antico, Jonny Wexler and Chris Stevens)
The energy was inescapable as the sounds of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons reverberated through TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall on opening night of Jersey Boys. The Broadway production won four deserved Tony Awards. In the lobby of the theatre, a sign greeted the patrons: “Flashing strobe lights, loud gunfire, and authentic, profane, Jersey vocabulary are special effects used in this production of Jersey Boys.” The language and attitude of the production were perfectly New Jersey. A collective giggle arose from the audience with the first F-bomb, but it was far from the last.
With your eyes closed, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Frankie Valli and the sweet, sweet sounds of Johnny Wexler’s falsetto as he sang the songs known and loved by so many. Wexler was joined by a small, but dynamic and powerful cast, as the story was brought to life. Corey Greenan excellently portrayed the resident scoundrel, Tommy DeVito, making you want to both hate him and love him at the same time. The late Nick Massi was brought to life by Chris Stevens, who made the audience smile with his deep baritone. Is that style or what?
The story progressed from the group’s beginnings under a streetlight, before Frankie was even a thought or they were known as The Four Seasons, to his introduction into the group and their struggles to get ahead and make themselves known by the fans. Through name changes, costume changes, and checkered pasts, the men stuck together, even when they may have wanted nothing more than to forget one another. The turning point for the group was first meeting up with Bob Guadio (Tommaso Antico), and then with Bob Crewe (Wade Dooley). The introduction to Bob was fascilitated in real life by none other than actor Joe Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci). Bob Crewe guided and nurtured the group and using the songs written largely by Guadio, he helped them rise to stardom.
While the cast was small, there were numerous characters featured throughout the play. The four primary players remained in their roles for the entire show, while the other cast members became quick-change artists. The Jersey Girls played in excess of a combined 40 parts, which at times required them to change costumes at a frenzied pace.
The real life Bob Crewe wrote the lyrics for the production, while the real life Bob Guadio created the excellent musical score. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo helped the cast bring the real-life moves of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons to the stage and the audience delighted in their simplicity as the moves and music took them back to a simpler time.
The set, initially reminiscent of Elvis’s Jailhouse Rock set, became stunning with the addition of digital backdrops, perfectly designed for each scene. Set changes were seamless, as the pieces were rolled on and off the stage, sometimes with sly comedic effect. A track on the stage allowed the classic and perfectly styled microphones to appear as if by magic, and disappear with the same ease. Overall, the set design helped to draw the audience in, without distracting from the excellent cast and music.
While it’s not necessarily kid-friendly because of the language, Jersey Boys is an amazing production that makes the audience smile, laugh, and share in the heartaches. There are several more chances to catch the show before it closes on January 14, and who knows, maybe Bob Guadio will wander over to TPAC from his home somewhere in the Nashville area, and see the story of his own life. Maybe he’ll bring along his dear friend, the great Frankie Valli. Keep your eyes open, Nashville, and let us know if they drop in so I can be completely jealous that they did not make an appearance at opening night.