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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: Jersey Boys rises above other jukebox musicals of its kind

Musical story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons combines all the hits with a compelling story

If you love the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons you’re going to love Jersey Boys.  But even if their music isn’t top of the charts for you, there is still a great deal to like about this jukebox musical.

Long before The Situation and Snooki were catapulted into our pop cultural lexicon, the original boys of the Jersey Shore took the international music scene by storm. With their initial music careers spanning two decades, the band was responsible for a string of hits including “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like a Man,” and “Working My Way Back to You”. These, and about three dozen more, are featured in Jersey Boys.

More than simply a breakneck journey through the group’s seemingly endless hits, thanks largely to director Des McAnuff’s precise direction, what sets Jersey Boys apart from other musicals like it is the smart book from Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.

Providing more substance than many other jukebox musicals that have gone before (and after) it, Jersey Boys effectively tells the group’s story using their music as a backdrop, rather than an endless attempt at forcing the songs into the narrative.

At times Brickman and Elice layer songs directly on top of the narrative, allowing director McAnuff to move at his dizzying pace. It is a great way to cram in as many hits as possible, but ultimately satisfy two audience segments: those who can’t get enough of the music, and those looking for something a little more from their musical theatre.

Of course, while the biographical storyline raises the bar for Jersey Boys among its peers, it is an inescapable truth that it is still mostly about the music, and this cast delivers.

While Jonny Wexler does a terrific job as “the voice of an angel”, this is Corey Greenan’s show in the role of Tommy DeVito. As the group’s de facto leader and the show’s narrator, Greenan not only has the vocals, but brings in one of the best performances of the night.

Chris Stevens is hilariously deadpan as the brickhouse Nick Massi, and Tommaso Antico brings the goods in his portrayal of songwriter, Bob Gaudio.

Of course, with this a story of four men, the women here are largely forgettable. There are even a few moments of cringe-worthy sexism which, while perhaps accurate to time, could easily be excised from the script.

Klara Zieglerova’s effectively simple set consists of the ubiquitous scaffolding, punctuated by large video screens with Roy Lichtenstein inspired comic strip panels from projection designer, Michael Clark. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo ensures the precise movements of the group’s iconic dance style.

Jersey Boys rises above others in its genre by skillfully balancing its music with story.  Oh, what a night, indeed.

Jersey Boys with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe. Directed by Des McAnuff. A Broadway Across Canada presentation of a Dodger Theatricals, Joseph J Grano, Tamra and Kevin Kinsella, Pelican Group, NETworks Presentations production. On stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (630 Hamilton St, Vancouver) until November 19. Visit for tickets and information.

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