Note: This review was written when the show first opened in December. A local favorite, “Jersey Boys” now has a new cast and the run has been extended through September.
Toward the end of the Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys,” as Frankie Valli sums up his life with the Four Seasons, the good times and the bad, he says, “All there was, was the music — that was the best.”
The quote nicely applies to the actual show, an enjoyable history lesson telling the story of how some kids from a rough neighborhood in Jersey became one of the best-selling pop acts of the 1960s.
Even the characters in “Jersey Boys” themselves say that the group didn’t appeal to prominent people with worldly aspirations. Unlike the Beatles, the Four Seasons weren’t trying to save the world; they were playing songs for working folks who had dark circles under their eyes.
Therein lies another of the joys of “Jersey Boys,” which is now enjoying an extended run at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. In addition to its roster of hit songs (anyone who listened to the radio in the ‘60s and ‘70s easily will know most of the insanely catchy tunes), the show reaches a real emotional tone, allowing each of the four guys in the group to tell his version of the story. It’s an excellent device, a clever structure put in place by first-time book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who pack in historical details, everything from the guys’ stints behind bars or their extramarital affairs to the inspiration behind the songs.
And each member of the group has a chance to shine: Valli, the siren-voiced lead singer, Bob Gaudio, the craftsman who penned the tunes, Tommy DeVito, the fast-talking businessman who started things off for the group, and support man Nick Massi, the self-admitted Ringo of the foursome.
Yet it’s the songs themselves that fuel the production, a fast-paced, compact affair — happily, there aren’t too many bells and whistles — directed by Des McAnuff. Gaudio had a real knack for coming up with hummable melodies; producer Bob Crewe supplied the equally memorable lyrics to songs such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” — the group’s first three hits, which all went to No. 1 on the pop charts.
The actors playing the Four Seasons sing with enthusiasm: Erich Bergen as Gaudio, Michael Ingersoll as Nick, Deven May as Tommy and Christopher Kale Jones as Valli.
Not particularly going for an exact imitation of Valli’s distinctive falsetto, Jones nonetheless has a knockout voice. Not only does he sound fantastic on all of the Four Seasons’ huge songs, he nearly brings the house on the early numbers during the period before the fellows became the Four Seasons, before they were singing their own songs. When Frankie sings “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “I’m in the Mood for Love,” people stop to listen.
Interestingly, the Four Seasons songs don’t kick in to “Jersey Boys” for about 40 minutes by which time the opening night crowd (the real Frankie Valli was in attendance) went wild upon hearing the familiar strains of “Sherry.” Yet it didn’t feel like a long haul to get to the good stuff. From start to finish, “Jersey Boys” flows with fun, drama and pop sensibilities.
Jersey Boys ***½
Presented by Best of Broadway
Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays; extended through Sept. 30, 2007
Tickets: $30 to $90
Contact: (415) 512- 7770 or www.ticketmaster.com