In third trip to Hip­po­drome in 5 years, ‘Jer­sey Boys’ still fresh

This juke­box mu­si­cal has what it takes to en­dure

Baltimore Sun - - AROUND THE REGION - By Tim Smith “Jer­sey Boys” runs through Sun­day at the Hip­po­drome Theatre, 12 N. Eutaw St. Tickets are $42-$147. Call 800-982-2787, or go to tick­et­mas­ter.com. tim.smith@balt­sun.com

Work­ing its way back to the Hip­po­drome Theatre for the third time in five years, the tour­ing pro­duc­tion of “Jer­sey Boys” again de­liv­ers a sat­is­fy­ing com­bi­na­tion of hit pa­rade and event­ful back­story about Frankie Valli and the Four Sea­sons.

Although “Jer­sey Boys” will fi­nally say “Bye Bye Baby” to Broad­way on Jan. 15, wrap­ping up an 11-year run of more than 4,600 per­for­mances, it will likely be per­formed on lots of other stages for a long time to come.

When it comes to juke­box mu­si­cals, this one, with a clever book by Marshall Brick­man and Rick Elice that weaves in nearly three dozen songs, has what it takes to stay on the charts. There’s abun­dant en­ter­tain­ment value in the retelling of how Valli and his fel­low Jerseyites formed a band and de­vel­oped a dis­tinc­tive falsetto-fu­eled sound, aided by a shrewd pro­ducer.

The neat twist here is that four nar­ra­tors get in­volved in­stead of one, each shed­ding and shad­ing light on the shared ex­pe­ri­ences. That the rec­ol­lec­tions don’t al­ways jibe is a big part of how the show can hook an au­di­ence.

Add in splashes of sur­pris­ingly durable hu­mor; a cou­ple of side trips for ro­mance and at­tempts at a do­mes­tic life; and a mob boss (hey, it’s Jer­sey) — and you’ve got enough in­gre­di­ents to make a pretty de­cent evening’s worth of the­ater even if there weren’t a note of mu­sic.

“Jer­sey Boys” re­quires ac­tors who can en­liven the plot while putting across all those songs with more than mere im­i­ta­tion skill. The whole thing has to feel gen­uine. That it does so in the pro­duc­tion run­ning through Sun­day in Bal­ti­more is due largely to Aaron De Je­sus, who gives a win­ning por­trayal of Valli.

I hate to men­tion any­thing about phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance (es­pe­cially this week), but I’ve got to point out that De Je­sus is more ma­ture- and down-toearth-look­ing than the other Val­lis I’ve seen.

Although he’s cer­tainly con­vinc­ing as a teenager early on, De Je­sus re­ally shines in Act 2, when the older, if barely wiser, Valli faces fresh set­backs, pro­fes­sional and per­sonal. The ac­tor’s nu­anced de­liv­ery of di­a­logue and his abil­ity to re­flect phys­i­cally the emo­tional turns in Valli’s Keith Hines, from left, Aaron De Je­sus, Cory Jea­coma and Matthew Dai­ley in “Jer­sey Boys,” play­ing at the Hip­po­drome through Sun­day. life pay off hand­somely.

De Je­sus can sing, too. His fearless falsetto may take him into Alvin and the Chip­munks ter­ri­tory at times, but when he’s closer to terra firma, he does very stylish work — es­pe­cially croon­ing “I’m in the Mood for Love” and giv­ing a gen­tle weight to the lyrics of “My Eyes Adored You.”

As Tommy DeVito, the self-pro­fessed brains and brawn of the Four Sea­sons, Matthew Dai­ley chan­nels his in­ner Rod­ney Danger­field to help cre­ate a wickedly charm­ing fel­low. Keith Hines gives a droll per­for­mance as the pent-up Nick Massi.

The role of song­writer Bob Gau­dio, a key in­gre­di­ent in the Four Sea­sons’ suc­cess, makes a snug fit for the per­son­able Cory Jea­coma; his sup­ple singing is an­other plus. I’ve never bought the show’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of record pro­ducer Bob Crewe as prac­ti­cally a pre­cur­sor to Jack on “Will and Grace,” but Barry An­der­son brings an ef­fec­tive spirit to the part.

The rest of the cast does vi­brant work, and the ac­tion, orig­i­nally di­rected by Des McAnuff, flows as flu­ently as ever on Klara Zieglerova’s sleek set. Through­out, a well-knit band sup­ports all the soar­ing vo­cals in au­then­tic style.

It’s easy to spot cliches or awk­ward tran­si­tions in “Jer­sey Boys,” but, as this pro­duc­tion reaf­firms, it’s even eas­ier to hang on to what it’s got — a han­dle on a cool, ab­sorb­ing chap­ter of pop mu­sic his­tory.

JEREMY DANIEL

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