JERSEY BOYS, The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, is a bounce-in-your-seat, hum, or sing-along, fun evening. Three of the four core members were interviewed to write the play, and the primary writing duo for the band did the music (Bob Gaudio) and lyrics (Bob Crewe). The show incorporates music from the group, which is used to this day in advertising and film productions. In fact, Frankie Valli is still touring with The Four Seasons at age 88 and is scheduled to be in Jacksonville Dec, 2023.
The show is told from the standpoint of being four seasons, with founding member, Tommy DeVito (Matt Michael) opening the show. It’s the mid ‘50’s, and DeVito discovers a unique 16-year-old singer, Francesco Castelluccio (later Franki Valli, played by Nick Anastasia), as he’s trying to form a quartet. DeVito is not a particularly nice character, as a gambler prone to jealousy, and Mr. Michael plays it so the audience doesn’t particularly like him, despite his underlying talent.
Second is the addition of the fourth group member, when the group was still known as The Four Lovers. Bob Gaudio (Christian Melhuish) was 15 when he hit the charts at #2 with The Royal Teens (“Short Shorts”). A young Joe Pesci (“Goodfellas”, “Home Alone”, “My Cousin Vinny”, played by Brandon Leporati) introduced Gaudio to the other members, and Gaudio and Valli immediately click. Mr. Melhuish is an incredibly credible Gaudio, right down to looking like he’s really playing the keyboards on the songs.
In 1960, the group failed an audition at a bowling alley. Knowing they needed to rebrand, they actually took the name of the bowling alley, The Four Seasons. Fates turned. They signed with producer/songwriter Bob Crewe (Mel Nash). Their first release (“Sherry”) hits #1, and they make history with two more hits, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man”. In fact, the group to bump them from the top slots was The Beatles.
When Anastasia, Brody, Melhuish, and Michael perform full out as the Four Seasons with “Sherry”, the audience goes wild. After that, it was like being at their concert with a narration of their history in between.
The third season is presented by Massi, who passed away prior to JERSEY BOYS being written. His portion is based on impressions from Valli, DeVito, and Gaudio. Massi left the group in 1965, having tired of the road. Brody portrays a very brooding character, who doesn’t take any guff from DeVito.
Eventually, it comes to light that DeVito has over $600k in gambling debts (equal to about $4.5M today). Valli and Gaudio buy him out, and he leaves the group in 1970. On a handshake agreement, Valli and Gaudio are equal partners in The Four Seasons.
Then there is the fourth season, Frankie Valli. Mr. Anastasia does an incredible portrayal of this role, right down to Valli’s very unique falsetto. He talks about Gaudio moving Frankie to a solo act with new members for The Four Seasons as backup, the original Four Seasons’ only reunion for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the loss of his 22-year-old daughter to drugs.
In addition to Mr.’s Nash and Leporati, there are eight cast members playing various individuals who come in and out of the group and their personal lives. Everyone is up, down, in, out, and around throughout the show, moving as a true ensemble and sounding incredible throughout.
At the beginning, you can hear some of the audience singing along in the background, but things get rowdier once “Sherry” drops. I went home and listened to an original recording, and the replication of their sound is uncanny! Birthdays from 16 to 86 were having a grand old time.
JERSEY BOYS is at the Alhambra Theatre, 12000 Beach Blvd., April 27-June 4, 2023,. Ticket prices vary based on show and seating. For reservations, go to alhambrajax.com or call (904) 641-1212.
By Cessy Newmon