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“Jersey Boys” rocks The Palazzo in Las Vegas.
The rollercoaster story of the personal and professional lives of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons makes for great drama. The Four Seasons’ ’60s-era music in the Tony Award-winning “Jersey Boys” at The Palazzo wraps effectively around their struggles to overcome tragedy, disappointment, brushes with the law, and more than a few bad decisions. Through it all, the doo-wop group, once considered “too white,” sold more than 100 million records, survived the British Invasion, and flourished during the “hippie years.” No tie-dyes for the boys from the projects, which from onstage references could easily be considered Armpit, New Joisy.
It’s the kind of play I would recommend and would see again. The vocals are A-plus. There is, however, a “but.” I would suggest doing a little homework before seeing “Jersey Boys.” A visit to frankievallifourseasons.com/bio.asp will help showgoers follow the play’s portrayal of The Four Seasons’ formative years in the opening scenes.
I conducted post-show and intermission mini-surveys, and there was agreement: The beginning story line is hard to follow because it moves so quickly. Cast members later narrate what is happening from their point of view, but until then the production relies on characters popping in and out without much opportunity to absorb who they are and their importance to the group.
Prep work will help explain Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi’s crime time, the suggestion of mob ties, and the frequent mention of actor Joe Pesci, who brought songwriter Bob Gaudio into the group. Gaudio co-wrote the novelty hit “Short Shorts” for the Royal Teens, and was responsible for a string of Four Seasons chart toppers beginning with the 1962 “Sherry,” which launched Valli’s falsetto style on TV’s American Bandstand. Prophetically, Valli was seen as the quartet’s “ticket out.”
Rick Faugno stars as Valli, Erich Bergen as Gaudio, Jeremy Kushnier as DeVito, and Jeff Leibow as Massi. Their harmony on “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “Who Loves You,” and “My Eyes Adored You” create one giant sing-a-long in The Palazzo Showroom.
John Salvatore plays Bob Crewe, the songwriter-producer so important to the group’s story. John Altieri was slated for the part, but the 38-year-old actor died tragically in Las Vegas of pneumonia the day after “Jersey Boys” opened on May 3.
In real-life 1970, DeVito left The Four Seasons and moved to Las Vegas, where he became a music producer. He later told the Las Vegas SUN that he quit because he was fed up with the group and touring. The show alludes to his money and gambling problems.
A little bit of trivia: the Pesci connection to The Four Seasons came from a boyhood friendship with DeVito. When Pesci landed the role of a mobster in Goodfellas, he used the name Tommy DeVito, a moniker Pesci took to mobster heaven in the film.
Valli’s character gets solo time performing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and a sad tribute, “Fallen Angel,” to the death of his daughter. Despite infidelity, family problems, and the suggestion of drug use, “Jersey Boys” is sprinkled with humor. There is dialogue about needing a car that makes a statement, even though it only gets eight miles to the gallon. Also, parental acceptance of the group’s success was judged by the fact that mom and pop stopped mentioning trade school.
The set is made up of simple scaffolding in which giant comic-art cutouts or performance videos form the background. Street-tough language fits the play’s tone but is not recommended for children younger than 12. “Jersey Boys” runs two hours and 10 minutes with an eight-minute intermission.
Until I can see the show again, I purchased a CD for the car. I’m the one bobbing her head to “Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got)” and “Working My Way Back to You.”
“Jersey Boys” plays nightly except Wednesday. Showtimes are Tuesday and Thursday through Monday at 7 p.m., with a late show at 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Saturday. Tickets are $70.70, $103.70, $147.70, and $257.70; prices include taxes and fees.Buy Jersey Boys Show Tickets HERE