Steve Gouveia (left), Joseph Leo Bwarie, Andrew Rannells and Jeremy Kushnier top the charts as the Four Seasons.
JERSEY BOYS Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe (DanCap). At the Toronto Centre for the Arts (5040 Yonge). To November 9. $55-$125. See continuing. Rating: NNNN
I get now why, in my conversation with Frankie Valli, he dismissed Mamma Mia!
Anyone can sing ABBA, he said, but no one in that jukebox musical has to sing sophisticated four-part harmonies, play instruments and handle complex choreography at the same time.
Jersey Boys' four central performers, who do all of the above, take this Tony-winning musical to major heights. The thin story concerns working-class New Jersey guys who rise to the top of the charts in the early 60s as the Four Seasons, pressured by Mob interests and family tensions along the way.
Jeremy Kushnier, as founder and bad boy Tommy DeVito, is sensational, all bluster and ego. Steve Gouveia plays bass man Nick, the guy with the low voice who arranged all those harmonies but still became the forgotten man, with the right sense of resignation. As genius songwriter Bob Gaudio, Andrew Rannells goes from young up-and-comer to confident superstar with ease. And Joseph Leo Bwarie sings like a dream as Valli.
The musical is full of stereotypes, female, Italian and gay; producer Bob Crewe, who's not credited enough in the action for writing almost all the words to the songs, must really be a happy screaming queen or he would have sued the writers for this portrayal. All this is true to its time, and projected archival film footage and images of 60s comic books help establish the moment.
Besides, as soon as the boys come out in their red suits midway through Act I to give that breakthrough performance of Sherry on American Bandstand (like all the other numbers slickly choreographed), you'll forget about all that and get sucked right in.
Read Susan G. Cole's take on Jersey Boys opening night here.