Home Entertainment News A Broadway Caliber Jersey Boys Hits The Engeman in Northport

A Broadway Caliber Jersey Boys Hits The Engeman in Northport

by Mike Cutino
0 comment

Photo: Sean McGee (Bob Gaudio), Joey Lavarco (Frankie Valli), Nick Bernardi (Tommy DeVito), and Stephen Cerf (Nick Massi)

by Barbara Anne Kirshner

It’s the early 1960’s, the dawn of rock and roll, when four New Jersey street kids created a distinct sound that grasped the entire nation and the Four Seasons was born.

The Jersey Boys is a bio-jukebox musical based on the Four Seasons quartet, brilliantly scripted by Marshall Brickman, known for his film collaborations with Woody Allan, and Rick Elice. This musical is packed with the group’s smash hits like Oh, What a Night, Earth Angel, Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, My Eyes Adore You, Dawn (Go Away), C’mon Marianne, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Working My Way Back to You. 

The musical premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2004 and ran on Broadway from 2005 to 2017 winning the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical and the 2009 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. A movie adaptation directed by Clint Eastwood was released in 2014.

The story line is at times gritty, delving into their rags to riches story including brushes with organized crime, mounting gambling debts and robbery leading to jail time. Told from the viewpoint of the four original members of the group, lead singer, Frankie Valli (Joey Lavarco), lead guitarist and baritone vocals, Tommy DeVito (Nick Bernardi),), bass guitarist and bass vocal, Nick Massi (Stephen Cerf) and keyboards and tenor vocals, Bob Gaudio (Sean McGee).

Each member has his story of how they rose to the top in the ‘60s and the circumstances surrounding their fall and eventual break up, but they agree it all started singing under a lamppost in New Jersey. Tommy DeVito takes credit for forming the group, originally a cover band called The Variety Trio consisting of himself, his brother Nick and friend, Nick Massi. They soon bring in Frankie Castelluccio who, with the insistence of his first wife, Mary Delgado (Kate Coffey), changes his last name to Valli with an i because, as she puts it, y is nothing, not a vowel or a consonant. Things halt when Tommy and his brother are sent to Rahway Prison for robbery, but Massi and Valli keep rehearsing and by the time DeVito is released from prison, Frankie’s voice is lush with that explosive falsetto that became the signature of the group. Enter Bob Gaudio who is introduced to them by Joe Pesci (Loren Stone), that’s right, the actor! Gaudio is quick to point out that he had a hit in Short Shorts before joining the group. The combination of Valli’s amazing falsetto with his three-octave range and Gaudio’s infectious songs help them skyrocket to fame and stay relevant even through the British Invasion. But DeVito’s gambling debts mount until he is cornered and told to pay back or else which takes its toll on the rest of the group leading to necessary and difficult changes. This show has it all with loves and losses, what price stardom, and pressures from the mob. Brickman and Elice didn’t have to make this stuff up, it actually happened 

Director, Paul Stancato, has assembled a breathtakingly dynamic cast. Lavarco’s Frankie Valli is mesmerizing, small in stature but big on vocal calisthenics with a falsetto as powerful as the one that made the real Frankie Valli a superstar. Bernardi as DeVito is so slick with his on point tough guy persona. Cerf’s Massi can be the voice of reason, but can also let go especially in his hysterical rant about having to share a bathroom with a slob like DeVito. Sean McGee gives dimension to his Bob Gaudio who was in his late teens when he joined the group. McGee shows early naivety that matures as he deals with the rough and tumble business that is show business. 

The strong supporting cast compliments the leads. Coffey is perfectly rough around the edges with her liquor swigging, cigarette smoking Mary Delgato. Loren Stone’s Joe Pesci is an amusing weaselly hustler instrumental to not only introducing Gaudio to the others, but he gets the group a gig at a bowling alley called the Four Season and the rest is history. Jonathan Cobrda’s Bob Crewe, their record producer, is deliciously flamboyant. The entire ensemble fills the stage with so much energy as they navigate through every dance number and song. 

In addition to directing, Paul Stancato’s choreography keeps the exuberance alive with his synchronized dance routines reminiscent of the early 60s doo-wop. The band under the musical direction of Benjamin Stayner, is exuberant throughout. Laura Shubert’s sound design adds a crisp, perfect balance.

Costume designer, Dustin Cross, must have had so much fun creating this spectacle of colors and sparkles. When the boys become famous, each number is performed in jackets of different flashy colors from reds to black sparkles to burgundy with spangles to a finale with bright white sequins. 

Kyle Dixon’s scenic design is composed of long screens that move into place revealing different scenes and at times projecting images that mirror the action. Lighting design by John Burkland enhances the feeling of each scene

The Engeman has given us a party of sight and sound with Jersey Boys so that long after you have left the theatre you are still singing those great tunes.

Playing now through Sunday, May 26, 2024.

John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main Street, Northport. www.engemantheater.com