Donna, my companion at Wednesday night’s fun-drenched performance of “Jersey Boys,” is a proud Italian woman d’un certain age from Norwalk, Connecticut.
“Molto bene!” she shouted at the show’s conclusion, joining the crowd on its feet. “Molto bene!”
Somebody once said, “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be,” but you can’t prove it at theREP, where Maggie Cahill’s superb staging of this 2005 show thrums and struts its way through the tale of four young Italian men from Newark.
From 1962-63, The Four Seasons had three No. 1 hits in a row (“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man”), and from then till now, with various guys replacing various guys, their signature sound of male pop harmonies backing lead singer Frankie Valli’s falsetto remains unmistakable.
The framework for this musical evening is a clever script by Rick Elice & Marshall Brickman: each member of the quartet shares his point of view about what happened, when, and why, starting with guitarist Tommy Devito (Justin Scott Brown). Talented DeVito launches the group and provides much of the energy to keep it going, but his gambling and borrowing constantly threaten their success.
Young Bob Gaudio (Jeffrey Kringer) is the last to join and thus has a different view of the group. He’s a brainy songwriter, someone who seems grounded in ways the others are not.
Guitarist Nick Massi (Brian Michael Henry) usually goes along to get along. Drink? He likes it. Often. But he notices more than what he lets on.
And Frankie Valli (Evan Jay Newman), whose tale of success and failure stands out just the way his voice does. At 88, Valli is still touring, and when you learn the younger Valli’s story, it’s no surprise. Work? Family? Money? Fame? What’s the right balance? If you can’t strike it, what’s the cost?
Cahill’s pacing is first-rate. Some members of the large cast double and triple roles, and the first act often feels hallucinogenic, the way memories are: one thought blends into the next, just as the scenery and the action and the characters do. Music and dance are built on beats, as is the storytelling of this whirlwind production.
Choreographer Freddy Ramirez keeps the quartet steppin’ and boppin’ and twistin’ with The Four Seasons’ particular style. Music director Todd Olson has done yeoman work with the singers and the hot band (with a special nod to percussionist Ian Kerr-Mace).
TheREP’s tech team serves up the story with vivid projections, bright ‘60s costumes, pitch-perfect lighting and sound, and apt set touches.
Kudos to the ensemble. Supporting actors Taylor Hilt Mitchell, Nicole Zelka, Kyle Garvin, and Buzz Roddy slip in and out of their various roles with ease.
Nick Anastasia’s turn as Joe Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci) is hysterical. Shannon Rafferty shines as Mary, the first Mrs. Frankie Valli, sweet and optimistic as a young woman, then disappointed and resentful as a neglected older one.
Shayne David Cameris is memorable as the gifted producer and lyricist Bob Crewe — in effect, the fifth Season. It’s Crewe who introduces the quartet into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
The four leads are terrific: that sound! “My Eyes Adored You,” “Dawn Go Away,” and “C’mon Marianne.” You know them. You’ll sing them under your mask, with the management’s encouragement.
Brown and Henry perfectly play leader and follower — until an explosive scene in Act II when the tables are turned. Newman’s voice and moves ring true, and you won’t be disappointed in Valli’s tender “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” And Kringer is mesmerizing throughout, whether it’s knocking out “December, 1963” or conveying this young man’s genius when he says, “I’m thinking what’s next.”
The American Dream, show biz style. Not an unfamiliar story, but one worth hearing again.
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 251 N. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: through Aug. 21
HOW MUCH: $69.50-$27.00
MORE INFO: 518.445.7469, or capitalrep.org