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Theater Review: “Jersey Boys”

“Jersey Boys” plays through May 14, 2017: Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6 pm
Photo credit:
Jeremy Daniel

“A good musical can make you thank God for the day you were born.”

Rick Elice said that, and he’s partly responsible for one of those musicals. He’s  the co-writer of the book for the multiple Tony-winning “Jersey Boys” that has just returned home for a short run through Sunday at San Diego Civic Theatre.

This bio-musical about Frankie Valli and the ’60s pop/rock group The Four Seasons (which premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in 2004) is on its third tour here. The cast has changed, but what matters is that the sounds – and most of all, the songs -- have not.

“Jersey Boys” is a great success story about four high school dropouts from a rough section of New Jersey who flirted with crime as a profession and could easily have ended up in the slammer, but instead became one of the biggest vocal quartets of the ’60s. (Actually, a couple of them did do brief time on the way to stardom.)

Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey) serves as narrator and instigator of the group. He’s also the one who will get the group in financial straits with his gambling habit.

The biographical material is here – how DeVito got the idea when he heard Francis Castelluccio (Valli’s real name) let loose with those impossibly high falsetto notes; how songwriter Bob Gaudio got involved; the search for a fourth singer; the attempts to get singing dates; their years of singing backup for others; the group’s name changes and final breakthrough when they became The Four Seasons and recorded their first big hit: “Sherry,” and finally, the years of stardom and their election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

It’s an interesting enough story, but “Jersey Boys” is more about music than history, and this quartet comes through with the sound.

Though there’s an edge to Aaron De Jesus’ voice that I found uncomfortable, his Frankie has the ‘tude, the lung power and, God bless him, those high notes.

Dailey’s DeVito has a hustler’s attitude and a fine baritone voice complements  the group well. 

Cory Jeacoma has a good sound as tenor Gaudio, whose friendship turned into a lifelong business partnership with Valli.

Keith Hines is a hoot as bass Nick Massi – unlike the others, shy, taciturn and uncomfortable onstage. Massi was so uncomfortable as a performer that he quit in the middle of a tour.

The opening night audience was primed and ready to hear those familiar songs. They were not disappointed. Even I was humming along, trying to control the impulse to sing.

The tech team does the show proud, with fine silhouette work and Michael Clark’s projections. 

These Jersey boys have sold an estimated 100 million records. “Jersey Boys” ran 11 years on Broadway, and now continues as a tour show.

“Let’s face it, we put Jersey on the map,” says DeVito. 

If you’re hankering to hear “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Sherry” and “Walk Like A Man” again, you have only a few days left to do so.

The show closes on Sunday.

The details

“Jersey Boys” plays through May 14, 2017 at San Diego Civic Theatre, 3rd and B Streets, downtown.

Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6 pm

Tickets: (619) 570-1100 or broadwaysd.com