“We tend to write plays with songs.”
So claims Rick Elice, co-writer with Marshall Brickman of 2005’s Tony-winning Broadway musical, “Jersey Boys,” which is currently making its second visit to Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre.
That may be Elice’s way of saying that “Jersey Boys” isn’t your standard jukebox musical, stitched together from one group’s song catalog.
Not just a collection of musical numbers, it’s a dramatic interpretation of the lives of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: blue-collar New Jersey kids, overly familiar with Jersey crime and punishment, who dominated the Top 40 in the early 1960s.
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Even if you didn’t grow up with their hits, you’re likely to recognize such golden-oldie standards as “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Valli’s aggressive multi-octave range stands out, even when it’s being re-created for the stage half a century later.
Still, it’s up to the cast, especially the actor assigned to playing Valli, to simulate their sound, capture their pre-MTV dance moves and suggest the illusion of three-dimensional characters. The current cast, led by Brad Weinstock’s sensational impersonation of Valli, deserves the standing ovation it received on opening night.
Elice and Brickman deliberately use a “Rashomon”-like approach to the material, telling the story from four viewpoints that represent the seasons.
Spring is represented by Colby Foytik’s manipulative Tommy DeVito, a gambler who opens the show and could lay claim to being the group’s creator.
But so could Jason Kappus’ Bob Gaudio, a virginal songwriter who performs several show-stoppers, including “Dawn,” “Sherry” and “My Eyes Adored You.” Summer begins and mostly ends with his takeover of the group’s artistic potential. (Kappus is from Seattle.)
Fall arrives after intermission in this 2½-hour show, with Brandon Andrus’ Nick Massi joining Gaudio and Valli on a stirringly melancholy version of “Stay” (with its irresistible refrain of “just a little bit longer …”).
Winter completes the circle with the tale of a Valli classic that was almost never released: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
Because of the show’s unique vocal demands — the actor playing Valli sings 27 songs during one performance — you may not see the same “Jersey Boys” your neighbor saw. At least one other actor will play Valli during the Seattle run that ends May 4.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org