Jersey Boys is a true success story, in two ways. It started at Southern California’s La Jolla Playhouse in 2004, moved to Broadway, and earned four Tony Awards in 2006. It has since gone on to form several other companies, including ones based in Chicago, Melbourne, and London. The Las Vegas company is installed at the gorgeous Palazzo Resort. I have seen four incarnations of the show and, for me, the Las Vegas company is the best all around. This comes partly from its having its own special theater, and partly from its absolutely incredible cast.
The show is also a success story in that it traces the history of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons from their simple beginnings in New Jersey, to becoming one of the top pop groups of the 1960’s, to their inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This joyous musical celebrates their lives and music. I call it the “Rocky” of Broadway musicals. As an audience member you get caught up in the music and the stories, and by the end of the evening the show has claimed you and branded you as a fan. Both the music and the show are infectious, thanks to the terrific work of Des McAnuff, the director, and the wonderful book by writers Rick Elice and Marshal Brickman.
You might ask why all the praise for a musical about a 60's rock group. Then you realize the group survived the Beatles, the British invasion, and the rise of hard rock. The songs are part of our American history. “Walk Like A Man” taught guys that it was OK to be a man who was upright, faithful, strong, and forceful. “My Eyes Adore You” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” taught us that there is depth and real caring in relationships, and that they are worth having and fighting for. “Sherry” showed us how to revel in a name. Dare I say the music makes you proud to be American, in the same way that Elvis captured something uniquely American. It's a rags to riches story full of drama, heartbreak, and joy.
I had seen two members of the first-rate Las Vegas cast before. Deven May is pitch-perfect as the bad boy of the group. He is easy, dangerous, and lovable. Erich Bergen is so convincing you almost think he is Bob Gaudio, the composer of most of the group's hits. Jeff Leibow is Nick Massi; though he's the “Ringo” of the group, when he has his moments he really plays them fully. Travis Cloer, who had played “Joey” in New York, here finally gets to try his hand as Frankie, and makes the character his own. His performance is a total success. I loved his acting, and his beautiful falsetto, an element that has sometimes been a little shaky in other Frankies.
I’m really glad I got to see this combo. The supporting players were also right on target. I particularly like John Salvatore as Bob Crewe, and Joe Barbara as Gyp DeCarlo. If you haven’t seen Jersey Boys, see it in Vegas, and if you have, see it again at the Palazzo’s Jersey Boys Theatre where it runs indefinitely.