Dallas Summer Musicals
The Four Seasons belt out "Walk Like A Man," one of their top hits, during Friday night's performance of "Jersey Boys," the musical that tells the story of how four working class boys from the tough streets rose to stardom in the 1960s, selling over 175 million records. (Left to right) Joseph Leo Bwarie (Frankie Valli), Andrew Rannells (Bob Gaudio), Erik Bates (Tommy DeVito) and Steve Gouveia (Nick Massi).
Photo by Joan Marcus

'Jersey Boys' rock the house: Oh, what a night

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

July 28, 2008 - There's no mystery as to why "Jersey Boys" won four Tony Awards in 2006. If you came of age in the 1960s or 1970s, the show offers one of the best nights you could ever spend in a theater.

The show, currently on stage at State Fair Music Hall in Dallas, tells the story of four youngsters from the wrong side of the tracks and how they became The Four Seasons, one of rock and roll's most successful groups.

While it's not necessary to have come of age in the 1960s and 70s, it sure helps to be familiar with the hits of The Four Seasons when you sit down to enjoy the show.

The boys belt out an impressive set of hits throughout the two and a half hour show. In fact, there's very little spoken dialogue. What drives the show are the songs.

Tommy DeVito (Erik Bates) opens the first act with the story of how he discovered Frankie Castelluccio (Joseph Leo Bwarie) and nurtured the young man's incredible talent. DeVito is everything a boy from Jersey should be. He's tough. He's Catholic. He's always got an angle.

DeVito and Castelluccio, along with their friend Nick Massi (Steve Gouveia) try to make a go of it in the music business, but realize they need something more than the two of them.

Help comes in the form of teen songwriting sensation Bob Guadio (Andrew Rannells), who penned the hit "Short Shorts" when he was only 15.

When flamboyant record producer Bob Crewe (Jonathan Hadley) tells the boys he won't give them studio time until they find a sound, Guadio writes "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," Walk Like a Man," "My Eyes Adored You." Not bad for a teenager from across the river.

Once the guys team up and find their sound, there is no stopping them. They tour non-stop. Their concerts sell out. Their records fly off the shelves. The sky's the limit for them.

Well, almost the limit.

DeVito gambles - big time. He constantly ducks the mob and the Internal Revenue Service.

Castelluccio - now Frankie Valli because Castelluccio won't fit on a marquee - stands by as his marriage fails and his daughter loses her battle with drug addiction.

Massi doesn't talk much, but when he does, he speaks volumes. He gets tired of life on the road and wants to go home.

Guadio, never comfortable in the spotlight, decides to step away and concentrate on writing hits instead of performing them.

Their individual dramas unfold behind some of the greatest hits in rock and roll history, including a rousing rendition of "December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)". I can't remember seeing a musical with this much actual singing.

The "Jersey Boys" are played by four really talented (not to mention pretty cute) kids with great vocal and acting chops. The Four Seasons were known for their tight harmonies and, of course, for Valli's falsetto.

Joseph Leo Bwarie has the toughest job, trying to replicate Valli's distinctive falsetto. He's on stage for nearly every number, and, on Friday night, he delivered. His enthusiasm and positive energy absolutely electrified the audience.

Andrew Rannells is the perfect foil for the short, wiry Bwarie. (On stage, his resemblance to a young, pre-plastic surgery Glen Campbell is uncanny.) He's the anchor of the group - the calm in the storm. His partnership with Valli is based on a handshake and it holds steadfast and true, through all the ups and downs.

Erik Bates could have jumped right off the screen from the HBO series "The Sopranos." He gives the character all the swagger expected from the mean streets of Jersey. He tests the limits of his relationship with Valli without once admitting he might have been wrong. He might be down, but he is never out. Ever.

One particularly pleasant surprises during my evening with the boys was the rockin' band that plays backup throughout the show. Mark Papazian added an effective, driving backbeat to every number, especially in the finale, "Who Loves You."

By the time the music stopped, the Papazian's rhythms had reached across the footlights and all the way to the top row of the balcony. The crowd roared in approval, jumped to a standing ovation and screamed at the top of their lungs. You'd have thought we were at a rock concert.

"Jersey Boys" is written by Academy Award-winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.

Editor's Note: This show contains gunfire and lots of profane "Jersey" language. It's not recommended for children younger than 12.

What: "Jersey Boys"

Where: Music Hall at Fair Park

When: Through August 16

How much: Single Ticket Prices: $25 - $124

Purchase tickets: 214-691-7200 or www.ticketmaster.com

Groups of 20 or more: 214-426-6768

Website: www.dallassummermusicals.org

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