Jersey Boys, which tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, has been a fan favorite since its premiere in 2004. However, for most viewers, the jukebox musical, with familiar music and lyrics by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, takes place on a massive stage and is viewed in a crowded room. That’s not the case with Theatre Raleigh’s production, onstage now through April 23. The venue’s intimate space, combined with Matt Bogart’s seamless direction, puts a whole new spin on this much-loved musical. In fact, it’s fair to say that, unless you’ve seen Jersey Boys like this, you haven’t really seen Jersey Boys.
In the smaller space, every lyric and every line of dialogue is clearly audible. Viewers also get to witness every smile, every tear, and every handshake, allowing the script’s humor and emotions to shine. On top of that, audience members are treated to perfect performances by a seasoned cast.
Troubled Tommy Devito (Rory Max Kaplan) starts off the storytelling. And, from his first line to his last smarmy glance, he’s pure perfection. Kaplan puts on a thick accent and a cocky demeanor to bring the character to life and creates a Tommy who is a study in opposites. He’s confident and insecure, caring and selfish, successful and self-destructive. And, thanks to sharp writing (Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) and Kaplan’s even sharper characterization, he never fully crosses into villain territory. Instead, he becomes a living, breathing person, one who is both complete and imperfect.
Of course, Devito isn’t the only narrator. Each of the band members takes us through a “season” of the group’s life and shares their struggles on the way to the top. As Nick Massi, artfully portrayed by Randy Cain, puts it, “You sell a hundred million records; see how you handle it.”
Frankie, acted by a charming and vocally-gifted Gian Raffaele DiCostanzo, struggles with romance, with his roots, and with standing on his own two feet, while other members struggle with their personal relationships and the harsh realities of a life—even a successful one—lived on the road. Together, they tell a compelling story of how life influences art and how art influences life.
From Bob Gaudio’s (Rob Marnell) hilarious sexual revolution to Tommy’s not-so-funny battles with gambling and loan sharks, each character is fully realized, and the chemistry between the four leads is palpable. Through them, the script explores the complex relationships that develop between men, and the rich, vulnerable acting allows their connection to become a character of its own.
As viewers contemplate the lives playing out on stage, Candi Boyd's energetic choreography and Bogart’s fast-paced direction keep the story moving swiftly. Wigs, costumes, and even time-appropriate microphones are swapped out with ease, and a rotating ensemble cast effortlessly steps into the role of various side characters. In particular, Vincent Genna (Gyp DiCarlo and others), Brenna Carleton Green (Mary Delgado and others), and Jasmine Michelle Smith (Lorraine and others) fill in as multiple characters without ever missing a beat.
All of this action plays out on Chris Bernier’s gorgeous, multi-functional 2-level set. The top tier serves as everything from a rundown jail to the bustling Brill Building, while the lower level works as countless venues and the lamplit streets of New Jersey. Two illuminated poster displays are used to help set time and place and add oft-missed clarity to the story.
In many ways, this production of Jersey Boys is a whole new experience, even for those who have seen the show countless times before. It’s so sleek, so streamlined, so detailed, and incredibly up-close-and-personal. It has no room to get away with the minor mistakes or imperfections so common in bigger productions, and it faces this challenge head-on without faltering. The show serves as perfect evidence of the unique gift Theatre Raleigh brings to the Triangle: intimate, off-Broadway style experiences.
Tickets are available here.
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