‘Jersey Boys’ takes Buffalo crowd back in a ‘time machine’ of its own
Audience members shielded their eyes as they were blinded by the same light 1960s rock band the Four Seasons experienced at its sold-out shows.
The "Jersey Boys” cast members faced upstage, with their backs turned toward the audience as they shared the feeling of stardom with the nostalgic crowd, some of whom were fans of the foursome since their start.
“Jersey Boys” debuted at Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Friday Nov. 15 as roughly 3,000 people enjoyed the national tour’s performance and characterization of Frankie Valli (John Hacker), Tommy DeVito (Corey Greenan), Nick Massi (Michael Milton) and Bob Gaudio (Eric Chambliss). The show highlights their struggle to make it out of New Jersey and find musical success with strong performances, interactive set designs and creative staging, all of which brought the sentimental crowd back to the glamour of the ‘60s.
The popular musical, that Chambliss described as “unpolished, honest and certainly entertaining,” illustrates the struggles that the Four Seasons faced on their road to stardom by using popular selections from the group’s catalog. Throughout the course of the show, each character helps narrate their transformation from criminals to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.
Many audience members felt a connection to the three hour-long show because of their memories of the group’s peak. Susan Hann was pleased to see her memories reproduced in “dramatic excellence.”
“When I was younger I used to go see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons all the time.” Hann said. “[The cast] sounds just like [the Four Seasons], it really takes me back.”
The 15-person cast did its part to enhance the show but a few stand-outs elevated the experience.
Chambliss enchanted the crowd with his spot-on portrayal of Gaudio, the group’s main writer, and his smooth singing voice and charming swagger. The humorous nuance to his no-nonsense tone made him the loving “a--hole” no one was going to forget.
Even some actors who didn’t have show-stealing numbers had their spot in the limelight. Playing Massi, Milton offered dry humor and subtle harmonies that held the longer monologues charmingly in-tact. Even the “Ringo Starr” of the group got to speak up in a tongue-in-cheek outburst that was well worth the wait.
Greenan oozed the charm and sleaze necessary to portray Tommy DeVito. The mobster-turned-rockstar had his ups and downs and Greenan portrayed them beautifully, seeming completely likeable in a way that made the audience gasp. His portrayal of DeVito’s complicated relationship with Valli was both sickening and oddly endearing at the same time, showcasing his skill as both a comical and serious artist.
The lead actor, Hacker, was great in the difficult role of Valli. One of the most crowd-pleasing numbers of the show, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” highlights Hacker’s dynamic acting ability. The scene emphasizes the conflict in Valli’s personal life that lurked behind his breathtaking performances and powerful vocal range. The audience was begging for more with applause at the conclusion of the climactic number that almost seemed “too good to be true.”
Each actor had stand-out moments, but nothing topped the scenes where group members performed together with flawless harmony and stellar dance moves.
The crowd danced along to hits like “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “Walk Like a Man” and “Sherry.” A few fans even stood and danced along to the final number as the whole company took to the stage for a dazzling final performance of “Who Loves You.”
The cast and crew nailed the ‘60s vibe, leaving some grateful audience members in tears. DeVito’s character was right when he asked, “Is this a time machine, or what?”
For the actors, the fans are what it’s all about.
“Sometimes these people might never get an opportunity to visit New York to see other Broadway shows,” Milton said. “So it feels very special to be able to be one of the lucky ones who gets to bring some Broadway magic to their hometowns.”
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