(L to R) Keith Hines, Aaron De Jesus, Drew Seeley and Matthew Dailey are The Four Seasons in the return engagement of “Jersey Boys,” playing through Feb. 14th at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)
“If things work out, can we add a saxophone?”
“If things work out, we can add a whole horn section.”
Bob Gaudio saw early on the brilliance of the young vocal wunderkind – and early in the Broadway jukebox megahit, Gaudio says glowingly “I knew I had to write for that voice.”
It’s a voice that, to this day, continues to pay the bills for both Gaudio and Francesco Castelluccio, known to the masses as Frankie Valli. The legendary handshake, the one that spawned hit after hit after hit, still pays the bills for both, as Gaudio explained to NPR’s Terry Gross on Fresh Air in a 2014 interview. While their legendary partnership has sustained over the years in the form of worldwide acclaim, the constant resentment from the other two, especially the group’s gruff founder Tommy DeVito, ultimately ushered out a glorious summer, which ran right into a devastating fall.
The perfectly constructed, ultra-sharp musical dramatization of the Four Lovers, Four Diamonds, Four Fours, Four Whatevers who ultimately became The Four Seasons has returned to San Francisco in all its brilliance. “Jersey Boys,” the 2006 best musical Tony Award winner fittingly ends on Valentine’s Day at the Orpheum Theatre. There’s not much particularly new about the production, namely because the piece is solid and has been for some time now. Stylistically, it offers up the same comfort food fare in the form of head-bopping doo wop music with their wonderfully tight harmony blend, anchored by that surreal falsetto range of Valli.
The story is familiar to Bay Area audiences, who have banked on the exit and return of the show for the past 10 years. Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey), a strapping Jersey dude, along with tall and droll Nick Massi (Keith Hines) are a few guys short of a group, when the young naive Valli (Aaron De Jesus) falls into their lap. Shortly after, a genius who writes songs in the form of Gaudio (Drew Seeley) is found with the help of a future movie star.
After getting more runarounds than a marathon runner, desperately trying to get a studio to record them, Gaudio finally has his hit, and The Four Seasons were born. There was no stopping the harmony train barreling downhill, and finally the group was dealing with everything a young, handsome hit group has to deal with – money, fame, girls, and ultimately, some deep, deep money owed to the mob.
As casts go, this cast is solid. My first viewing of the show, back on that first national tour to come through San Francisco, were led by a great Christopher Kale Jones as Valli and Erich Bergen as Gaudio.
As Frankie’s go, Aaron De Jesus is excellent, with a faithful falsetto that is there for him every step of the way. And while Seeley’s Gaudio is a tad south of spectacular, his numbers are all solid, namely one of my personal favorites “Cry For Me.”
Dailey’s presence is different than other DeVito’s I’ve seen, namely because he is such a big, solid guy, the kind of guy that can suit up as linebacker if he wasn’t tackling the lead guitar. And Keith Hines has a completely different and hilarious take on Massi, one whose humor is drier than a fresh towel.
One of the many strengths of the show is the music, songs that never seem to get old. These songs are in constant motion, proving that good music transcends all ages.
A delight of the show is how poignant it can be. While there are a few moments that reached a bit too much and got a little clunky, seeing such a harrowing journey which ultimately leads to the pinnacle of any rock and roller is very satisfying.
For me, one of the most emotional moments of the show goes right back to that saxophone conversation. I am always struck by the simplicity and drama of Gaudio, a man whose friendship with Frankie is encapsulated as he watches a key moment unfold, a big brother beaming with pride. It meshes beautifully with a discovery Frankie makes when a certain significant milestone is made. It is a moment that only the stage play can give, a moment meant for a live audience, a moment that stirs the soul and induces tears.
All of the hits of The Four Seasons are given the royal treatment, songs like “Walk Like a Man,” “C’Mon Marianne,” and “Beggin’” are joyous and fresh. But of all the songs that take hold of the stage, “Oh What a Night” is easily the most fitting.
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
SHNSF Presents “Jersey Boys”
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Featuring the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
The Word: Comfort food aplenty as the iconic doo wop sound graces the Orpheum Stage yet again in San Francisco
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
Through Feb. 14th
The Orpheum Theatre
1192 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Tickets range from $45 – $212
For tickets, call (888) 746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com