According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Review: “Jersey Boys” by Aaron Riccio

...there's a great and vital energy suffusing the stage.

It's no wonder fans want to get to their feet and clap -

Everybody has a story, but not everybody has one that’d be so perfect for a made-for-Broadway play. Jersey Boys, a new musical biopic about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, has all the stereotypical junk we’ve seen before. The shady underbelly, the grassroots start, the chance meetings, the small crimes they climb out of (without ever really escaping), the clash of personality, the tension of creative design, oh, and yeah, the Mafioso connections. And yet, it’s Broadway-slick here, no mistakes or inconsistencies: even Frankie Valli’s initial stage-fright seems smooth as butter, which is great, because all that grease means the show, once it gets started, never stops moving.

If there are any complaints to be made about Jersey Boys, they certainly won’t come from fans of The Four Seasons. Not only are all four actors pretty much pitch-perfect for the roles, but they give such a passionate performance that they’re sure to have huge careers ahead of them (especially John Lloyd Young, who croons Valli’s delicate notes). No, if you’re a fan, you’ll be up on your feet with the other fans, clapping along (perhaps even singing along) to the famous hits, even as you learn (or re-learn) the precarious nature of those songs. Plus, Joe Pesci (not the real one) has a brief cameo as the band’s first roadie; What could be better?

Jersey Boys has all the elements necessary for a successful Broadway musical, and far surpasses the flimsy standards set by other musicals based on existing works and artists. Also, due to the light and fluffy nature of the music, there's a great and vital energy suffusing the stage. It's no wonder fans want to get to their feet and clap - even an audience unfamiliar with the constant #1 hits would still be swept away by the catchy beats, the invigoriating thrusts. However, this greatest strength is also their only flaw: the pop is so abundant (and inescapable) that after a while, seeing the same rehearsed dance moves and limited use of space becomes a little bland, a little boring. You’ll be listening more than watching, and that’s fine, isn’t it, because it means the music is first and foremost. Still, it makes seeing the show a little redundant, when the cast recording exists, and buying the cast recording seems superfluous when the band recordings still exist.

So take it for what it is: a musical experience as superficial (yet enjoyable) as the pop genre itself. There are no surprises in a lump of butter: so it is nice to get exactly what you pay for. Enjoy the smooth, perfectly edible, Four Seasons tribute/extravaganza that is Jersey Boys, even if the experience is bound to melt away the moment the curtain closes.

August Wilson Theatre
245 West 52nd Street
Tickets: $65.00-$100.00 (212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250)
Monday-Saturday @ 8:00; Wednesday and Saturday @ 2:00

No comments: