A group of street boys from Jersey sing about the daily battles of everyday life that so many can relate to in the emotionally direct and hard-hitting hit tour of Boys jersey play now Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theatre. Romance, heartbreak, family ties, financial troubles and troubled friendships are all explored in the driving, driving beats of the catchy songs (and romantic ballads) that make up the catalog of hit band “The Four Seasons “formed in 1960 in Newark, New Jersey (known sometimes as “Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons” since 1970—-as well as many other names, but you’ll have to see the show to find out!)
The hard-working ethos and urban brotherhood of the neighborhood guys is portrayed in the real-life story of Frankie Valli and the four seasons, who obviously struck a universal chord of mass appeal in this very well-constructed Broadway hit. The popularity seems to stem from an outpouring of appreciation for a story that isn’t trying to be what it isn’t—namely, the songs and the story are simply a story of survival when things get complicated. Original actor Bob Gaudio’s music carries the day in songs like “Beggin'”, “Let’s Hang On (To What We Got)” and “Working My Way Back to You” and Bob Crewe’s lyrics emphasize survival against all odds.
The demographic of the night I attended was older, and I wish more younger generations were aware of the classic pop sound and popularity of this unique and influential band (other bands and artists have picked up their songs). Over thirty songs by Gaudio and Crewe are beautifully orchestrated by Steve Orich and provide a compelling explanation of why they are one of the most successful bands in modern music history. Music Director Noah Turner leads a group of excellent musicians.
Director Des McAnuff uses the musical numbers to highlight the interesting and tumultuous life story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book is an ingenious distillation of pivotal events in the main characters’ lives as a group and as individuals with their own personal joys and demons. In act two, the show becomes more book-focused and plays out without a hitch. Like Emilio and Gloria Estefan’s book On your feet! this musical is driven by a smart, well-rehearsed narrative that propels the show and adds emotional weight to the musical numbers. Easy sentiment is avoided for honest writing that depicts the pitfalls of the road, the quirks of friendship, and the lure of fame. Tragic subjects like death in “Fallen Angel” are handled with sensitive maturity.
Sergio Trujillo’s choreography galvanizes in the upbeat hit ‘Sherry’, the highly original ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ and the adrenaline-fueled ode to being proud of who you are titled ‘Walk Like a Man’. The dynamic, dynamic spirit of “Walk Like a Man” was a highlight, as the syncopated, crisp, assured movements were in perfect sync as the vocal group wore sparkling gold jackets (perfect suit by Jess Goldstein) and proudly sang his heart. .
Justin Albinder (replacing Jon Hacker as Frankie Valli the party I attended) was Valli personified to the max. Mr. Albinder captured the full gamut of emotions, from the newest member of the singing group to the confident singer and second-act businessman. Mr. Albinder sang with pathos in the tender “My Mother’s Eyes”, “I’m in the Mood for Love” and the heartbreaking “Fallen Angel”. Albinder’s lower register moved easily through the full spectrum of his falsetto in most cases. The catchy, nostalgic appeal of “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” was marked by Mr. Albinder’s soulful vocals and director McAnuff’s immaculate direction — which included a horn section playing with a driving resonance of the highest level of the whole.
Matt Faucher as the taciturn Nick Massi, Devon Goffman as the rebellious Tommy DeVito and Eric Chambliss as the composer Bob Gaudio all play with authenticity and natural ease. The singing and acting were a cut above with Goffman starring in “Earth Angel” and Chambliss starring in the innocent lost ground of the nostalgic “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”. Mr. Faucher had an incredible deadpan delivery with subtle comedic timing in his many scenes.
Jared Chinnock, Amy Coelho, Katie Goffman, Antonio King, Connor Lyon, Kevin Patrick Martin and Alec Michael Ryan added textured actors in supporting roles. Sean McGee’s portrayal of lyricist Bob Crewe attracted attention.
Set Design by Klara Zieglerova is a marvel of sleek steel railings, platforms and stairs. The upper/platform level adds visual depth to the production as it is used for compelling and relevant colorful pop/comedy panels “à la Roy Lichtenstein” to emphasize dramatic or lighter moments; Television extracts from concerts are also presented (Projection Design by Michael Clark). A beautifully lit industrial view of the cityscape is also seen (lighting designer Howell Binkley – who outfits the entire show with evocative skylights).
The penultimate song “Who Loves You?” was a truly jaw-dropping ensemble number as the crooning and instrumentals overlapped with the heart-pounding vocal choruses of “Who loves you, pretty baby? Who’s gonna help you through the night? Who loves you, pretty mom? Who’s always there to do it?”. Those vocals knocked off one of the rafters as Mr. Trujillo’s supremely confident and sassy choreography was placed into the mix.
An interesting coda from the production occurred when the 30 millionth moviegoer was called onto the stage for a photo op and applause.
A well-deserved encore ensued, and the crowd did indeed “go wild”—as the first press proclaimed. This show’s message of survival has power. Across PC, pandemic, hard times and good times —-Boys jersey is a production that offers this rare and often difficult to find combination: “intelligent escape”. Don’t miss it.
Duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15 minute intermission
Boys jersey premiered Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 8 p.m. at the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center located at 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20566.
Boys jersey until June 26e2022. For information and tickets, click here.