Jer­sey Boys rock­ing out at Robin­son

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - ERIC E. HAR­RI­SON

Jer­sey Boys, the ori­gin story of how four Ital­ian-Amer­i­can guys from Belleville, N.J., be­came Frankie Valli and the Four Sea­sons, rocked Lit­tle Rock’s Robin­son Cen­ter Per­for­mance Hall on Fri­day night.

The open­ing show in Celebrity At­trac­tions’ 2018-19 sea­son of tour­ing pro­duc­tions pulls no punches and from top to bot­tom is just as rau­cous as the lives of its prin­ci­pals.

Their rise from four guys singing on a street cor­ner to hit-mak­ing fame and for­tune and their even­tual, per­haps in­evitable fall is told with panache, a whole con­cert full of songs (not just those of the Four Sea­sons — mu­sic by Bob Gau­dio, lyrics by Bob Crewe — but of their early con­tem­po­raries) and, in the book by Mar­shall Brick­man and Rick Elice, a very great deal of authen­tic “pro­fane Jer­sey lan­guage.”

Each mem­ber of the orig­i­nal band — Valli (Jonny Wexler), Gau­dio (Eric Cham­b­liss), Tommy DeVito (Corey Greenan) and Nick Massi (Jonathan Ca­ble) — gets his own stage “sea­son” and a chance to tell his side of that part of the story.

The chem­istry, act­ing-wise and vo­cally, be­tween the four of them and be­tween the dozen ensem­ble ac­tors cre­at­ing sub­sidiary char­ac­ters and also serv­ing as the stage crew, is amaz­ing. The show neatly crafts the story of the band with the mu­sic they cre­ated, in­clud­ing telling how many of the songs were born.

And those songs were top hits, ev­ery one — “Walk Like a Man,” which, of course, brings down the house; “Sherry”; “Big Girls Don’t Cry”; “My Eyes Adored You”; “C’mon Mar­i­anne” and its com­pan­ion num­ber, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”; “Rag Doll”; “Oh, What a Night.” There’s even a list in the pro­gram (which also of­fers a por­trait of the ac­tual orig­i­nal Four Sea­sons) of “The Ones That Got Away,” Four Sea­sons hits that didn’t make the show, in­clud­ing “I’ve Got You Un­der My Skin” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any­more.” A six-piece stage band pro­vides the ac­tual mu­si­cal back­ing.

Fine per­for­mances in sup­port in­clude Rick Des­loge’s por­trayal of Joe Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci, then a kid from the neigh­bor­hood who played a part in mak­ing a trio a quar­tet), Wade Doo­ley as pro­ducer/song­writer Crewe and Chloe Tiso, who has the dis­tinc­tion of play­ing both Valli’s mom and his daugh­ter, Francine. The per­for­mance has no dead spots, though there were some dead, or al­most dead, spot­light mo­ments, leav­ing per­form­ers on their marks but in the dark. A glitch in the pro­jec­tion sys­tem cre­ated an oc­ca­sional dis­tract­ing elec­tronic “ghost.” You’ll find that the vol­ume level does rise, al­most to rock con­cert level, in the sec­ond act as the mu­sic evolves from rock and roll to rock ’n’ roll.

And par­ents of kids 12 and younger and for folks with del­i­cate sen­si­bil­i­ties, be ad­vised: When they say the show fea­tures authen­tic “pro­fane Jer­sey lan­guage,” they mean it.

Jer­sey Boys will be on­stage again at 2 and 7:30 p.m. to­day and 2 p.m. Sun­day at Robin­son, 426 W. Markham St. at Broad­way. Ticket in­for­ma­tion is avail­able by call­ing (501) 244-8800 or on­line at Tick­et­mas­ter.com.

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