Jersey Boys (aka The Story Of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons) is back in town in a streamlined staging that may trim its cast by 21% but stints hardly an iota on entertainment value, its new-for-2017/18 National Tour stopping this weekend only at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts.

 “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Rag Doll,” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” are just five of the Seasons’ Greatest Hits (music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe) that Jersey Boys has the pop quartet performing as the boys themselves did throughout the 1960s—in recording studios, clubs, and concerts, and on TV variety shows.

One of book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s most inspired choices is a Rashomon-style style narration that gives each of the group’s four original members his own distinct “season of view.”

Thus we first get Tommy DeVito’s Spring spin on The Four Seasons’ start (including Tommy-&-Nick’s multiple albeit relatively brief incarcerations and their mob connection with mafia boss Gyp DeCarlo), followed by The Summer Gospel According To Bob Gaudio, the songwriting genius whose melodies were a key factor in The Four Seasons’ rise to stardom.

Original member Nick then takes over for Fall, with Frankie’s Winter recounting events leading up to his solo stardom, before a Crewe-narrated coda reunites the original Four Seasons at their induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame circa 2000.

While Jersey Boys doesn’t flinch from the darker side of the group’s success, there is every bit as much joy as sorrow whenever National Tour stars Tommaso Antico (Bob), Corey Greenan (Tommy), Chris Stevens (Nick), and above all Jonny Wexler (Frankie) perform hit after hit after hit to audience cheers and tears.

With director extraordinaire Des McAnuff once again at the helm and choreographer Sergio Trujillo giving us those signature ‘60s grooves, Jersey Boys moves at a breakneck pace, and sensationally so, a number of sequences proving particular standouts, notably a pair of suspenseful lead-ups to the revelation and subsequent performance of the Seasons’ very first hit and Frankie’s very first solo smash.

The creative team’s decision to end Act One with a dramatic cliffhanger rather than the great big production number—“Dawn (Go Away)”—that precedes it is but is another of their savvy moves, a reminder that Jersey Boys is ultimately the real-life tale of four boys from Jersey, warts and all.

Still, though Brickman and Elice’s book reads like a drama, director McAnuff and his supremely talented design team have opted to stage Jersey Boys with Broadway-musical dazzle.

Scenic designer Klara Zieglerova’s Tony-nominated industrial set may appear all black and scaffoldy at first glance, but plenty of flash from neon signs, Michael Clark’s cartoon LED projections, live and vintage B&W footage, and saturated Technicolor backdrops make the production a nonstop visual treat.

None of this appears to have been scaled back for a 2017-2018 National Tour whose itinerary includes more than a few one-nighters in cities rarely gifted with Equity tours, nor are its four leads any less winning than those that have preceded them.

Wexler graduates from three years in supporting tracks to none other than Frankie himself, the charismatic charmer hitting those high notes like nobody’s business as he wins audience’s hearts with his boyish appeal and earns applause for his dramatic chops.

Antico is terrific too as boy wonder Bob as are Greenan’s bravado-filled Tommy and Stevens’s big lug of a Nick, with featured actor snaps to Wade Dooley, whose track now has him playing not just the fabulously flamboyant Bob Crewe but other roles as well, and the adorable Sean Burns, whose future Oscar-winner Joey is but one of over half-a-dozen the Frankie understudy nails.

Like Dooley and Burns, the dynamic duo of Todd DuBail (Gyp DeCarlo and others) and Kevin Patrick Martin (Norm Wexler and others) get to play double the roles the tour’s previous years would have afforded them with (my guess) the audience none the wiser. Indeed, only in the show’s few full-cast sequences are the three fewer cast members conspicuous by their absence.

As for Jersey Boys featured females—dance captain Dianna Barger as lost child Francine (and others), Tristen Buettel as the lovely Lorraine (and others), and Michelle Rombola as the brassy Mary (and others)—they are every bit as marvelous as their male counterparts.

Music director Michael Gonzalez conducts the Jersey Boys orchestra, onstage in various configurations and numbers throughout the show, and you won’t find a more exciting bunch of musicians on tour.

Broadway design contributions also include Howell Binkley’s flashy, Tony-winning lighting, Jess Goldstein’s fabulous ‘50s/‘60s costumes, Steve Canyon Kennedy’s Vegas-ready sound design, Ron Melrose’s marvelous music supervision, vocal arrangements, and incidental music, and Charles LaPointe’s period wig and hair design.

Swings Ben Bogen (assistant dance captain), Jonathan Cable (fight captain), Caitlin Leary, and Kit Treese are poised to go on at a moment’s notice.

Jay Carey is production stage manager and Deborah Barrigan is company manager.

Its cast may be three members smaller but audience cheers remain as loud as ever, and justifiably so, as Jersey Boys once again proves why ticket buyers made it the 12th-longest-running show in Broadway history. Winter, summer, spring, or fall, even trimmed-down Jersey Boys still has it all!

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Segerstrom Center For The Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

–Steven Stanley
January 19, 2108
Photos: Joan Marcus


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