LOU'S VIEWS: (Jersey) Boy wonders settle in at Murat

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

I wasn’t really aware of The Four Seasons when the musical foursome dominated the charts circa 1962-1965.

Yes, I am an actual Jersey boy. And I happen to have been born in late December back in ’63. But those facts didn’t predispose me to being a fan of the band. By the time I was aware of them, they seemed to my teen ears like just another Vegas-y act of yesteryear. Sure, their songs were catchy, but these guys weren’t groundbreakers like the Beatles or The Who. They were slick and smooth and, to be honest, I had trouble keeping straight the difference between Frankie Valli and Frankie Avalon.

Am I alone in this? Before “Jersey Boys” took Broadway by storm, can you recall a single time when the Four Seasons came up in musical conversation?

A&E “Jersey Boys” is much more than just a tribute show. It delivers the musical goods with impeccable showmanship and style. (Photo courtesy Joan Marcus)

I bring this up not as a put-down of the band, but to underscore how amazing it is that the group’s story has so successfully been translated to the stage. Audiences who might balk at a pair of free tickets to see the actual Four Seasons perform are paying top dollar for tickets to see the same guys’ lives and songs re-created on stage.

To be clear, “Jersey Boys” (through July 3 at the Murat Theatre) is much more than just a tribute show. It delivers the musical goods with impeccable showmanship and style, but it also makes us care about the boys doing the singing. In the able hands of writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, troublesome Tommy DeVito (Matt Bailey), pragmatic boy genius Bob Gaudio (Ryan Jesse), cryptic regular guy Nick Massi (Steve Gouveia) and, of course, Frankie Valli (Joseph Leo Bwarie) come across as flawed, talented guys who earn the audience’s interest even when they aren’t telling Dawn to go away or encouraging big girls not to cry.

The cast is uniformly fine (I’ve accepted that I won’t see another “Jersey Boys” performance as indelibly edgy as Jeremy Kushnier’s Tommy in the Chicago company) and the tech side handles the fast-moving show with superhuman smoothness. I question whether this music needs the sort of “Rock of Ages” sound amplification it gets here, but that seems to be the ways things are going with musical theater tours.

This, my third viewing of the show, didn’t reveal

any nuances missed in previous encounters—“Jersey Boys” isn’t a show that’s going to dislcose more layers on repeat viewings. But it is the kind of show I’d happily watch again and again. The appeal is obvious for Four Seasons fans (who will be happy to hear that Frankie Valli himself, along with the latest permutation of the Four Seasons, will be performing on the same stage Oct. 21), but it extends well beyond that. By offering three-dimensional portraits of guys we never thought we wanted to know, “Jersey Boys” transcends the jukebox musical label to become a solid piece of musical theater.

As with “Jersey Boys,” this was my third time seeing “Disney’s High School Musical” on stage, although with this pre-teen favorite, they were from three different production companies.

A&E Jessica Ann Murphy, center, ably leads the cast of “Disney’s High School Musical” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. (Photo Courtesy Julie Curry)

Not that there’s much room for creativity. Its primary purpose, after all, is to put on stage a replica of the blockbuster hit TV movie. Criticizing “High School Musical” for being “High School Musical” is unreasonable and unfair. It’s perfectly understandable why theaters see it as a boon to their bottom line and it’s perfectly understandable why parents hoping to introduce their kids to theater take them to see it.

It is, in a word, harmless.

And while Beef & Boards’ production (through July 18 at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre) doesn’t bring anything special to the cafeteria table, it avoids the overblown nature of the national tour. It also has the benefit of featuring the same two leads (Jessica Ann Murphy and Tim Barsten) who, closer to high school age, appeared in American Cabaret Theatre’s production three years ago. Both prove charming in limiting roles.•


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming A&E events to lharry@ibj.com. Visit www.ibj.com/arts for more review, previews and blog posts. Twitter: IBJarts


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.