Matthew Reddin

Milwaukee goes wild for “Jersey Boys”

By - Jul 23rd, 2011 03:26 pm
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“Jersey Boys,” left to right: (l to r) Quinn VanAntwerp, Matt Bailey, Joseph Leo Bwarie and Steve Gouveia. Photo: Joan Marcus

Jersey Boys is an amazing show, but its greatest achievement is turning the audience at the Marcus Center into a roaring rock concert crowd.

Jersey Boys, which is running at Uihlein Hall, tells the story of the Four Seasons — Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi, Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli — and their rise to stardom in the 1960s. More accurately, it tells four stories; the play’s two acts are (rather cheekily, to be honest) divided into four “seasons,” and each member gets one.

The segments fit together like puzzle pieces, much like the Seasons themselves. Jersey Boys seamlessly transitions from moment to moment, aided by its jukebox format. While a handful of the songs are in-the-moment and related to the plot, the majority are staged as actual performances — complete with bows, applause, and adoring public.

The cast executes this brilliant idea masterfully. Matt Bailey, Steve Gouveia, Quinn VanAntwerp and Joseph Leo Bwarie (as Tommy, Nick, Bob and Frankie, respectively) harmonize perfectly in both their singing and acting. They draw the difference between singing to stand out and singing to make their song stand out. Bwarie, as Valli, is the lead vocalist for most of the songs, but not the star. The Four Seasons Sound is the star. That sound is spine-tingling in such songs as Cry for Me, Sherry, and the closing number, Who Loves You?

And the crowd goes mad.

Beyond the music, this show is funny. Laughter-and-applause-stop-the-show funny. Hilarious.

It’s funny in ways you wouldn’t expect, because going in you don’t really know these Jersey boys. The image of The Four Seasons for most people is the one flashing on screens during television commercials for Jersey Boys: Four guys in smart suits with a little flash, all the edges smoothed right out.

That’s not them. They’re working class. They worked for those suits. They’re smart-asses with a gritty side. The show’s plot reminds us of the Four Seasons’ roots, but the comedic edge prevents the show from becoming a “behind-the-artist” special.

For such an in-your-face show, Jersey Boys sports a lot of subtle staging (aside from the garish, pop-art flat-screens that illustrate many of the songs’ lyrics).

Take the boys’ wardrobe. As their star rises, so does their costuming budget, with their style evolving from classy colored tuxes to bedazzled blazers that catch every flash of the limelight — before the inevitable fall puts them back in cheap suits. Des McAnuff’s savvy stage direction includes such moments as the poignant foreshadowing early on: The boys are in the recording studio together, but Frankie’s off to the side — already going just a little bit solo. This tiny detail says a lot about the purpose and thought behind this production.

Jersey Boys is a hit because it reminds us of two simple facts: The Four Seasons were a really cool group. And they still are.

Jersey Boys will runs through Aug. 14 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are available at the Marcus Center box office or at (414) 273-7206, online and at Ticketmaster locations.

Categories: A/C Feature 1, Theater

0 thoughts on “Milwaukee goes wild for “Jersey Boys””

  1. Anonymous says:

    […] Matthew Reddin, ThirdCoastDigest.com: And the crowd goes mad. […]

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