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April 16, 2024

Jersey Boys considered the complete musical package

By Ellen Brait | November 21, 2013

Rock ‘n’ Roll musical Jersey Boys opened at the Hippodrome Theatre to an almost full audience on Nov. 12. The crowd was primarily comprised of those who remember the great music of The Four Seasons from their childhood, and the air was alive with anticipation.

The opening number, “Ces Soirees-La (Oh, What a Night),” established the vibe for the rest of the night. While the band did a solid job covering almost every hit in The Four Seasons’s repertoire, and the orchestra was spot on, the words were hard to hear throughout the song. This was a constant problem during the play, especially with Hayden Milanes, who played Frankie Valli. Though he showcased an impressive range, he was sometimes drowned out by the backup singers and band. And really, no one can compete with Valli's legendary voice, so it’s a tad unfair to expect the musical’s songs to be up to their original glory.

Nonetheless, the show did not disappoint. It was highly entertaining and humorous from start to finish. It was serious during some of the band’s more troubling moments, but managed to be light hearted when appropriate, especially when the plot slowed down and focused on the banter between band members. The transitions from scene to scene were especially impressive. The addition and subtraction of props was seamless and smooth.

Although the set seemed simple, the cast made good use of the space. The projection of pictures and graphics on a large screen made for an interesting aesthetic on stage. This was especially true when the cast sang “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and a Lichtenstein-inspired comic adorned the screen, showing a man telling a woman on the telephone, “We have to break up…” to which her response was “Big girls don’t cry” as she lay on her bed looking miserable. The songs throughout the production were catchy and had the audience engaged, some even dancing along to every song. On occasion, however, the volume was unbalanced.

All the members of The Four Seasons were well cast and did a good job of emphasizing key aspects of each character so that the audience could identify with them. As the lead, Milanes wowed the audience with his ability to jump between completely different scenes. He bounced from scenes of great despair to ones with uplifting music with surprising grace. When Valli suffered numerous losses, first with the end of his marriage, then with the end of his second relationship, and finally with the death of his daughter, Milanes did an amazing job of evoking emotion and taking the musical to a more serious place.

Brandon Andrus, who played Nick Massi, had a more subdued role and remained mostly in the background throughout. But surprisingly enough, his turned out to be one of the most humorous characters throughout the production. With his bland personality, deep bass vocals, and dull delivery of his lines, there was something undeniably funny about his character and his performance. His catch phrase of “I’m going to go start my own group” was easily brushed off by the other three members of the band but was endlessly hilarious to the audience.

Nicolas Dromard, who played Tommy DeVito, was the narrator of the play in the beginning, but eventually the audience saw past his humor and discovered that, as in most stories, there is one character that the audience as a whole dislikes, and in this production, he was it. Dromard did a wonderful job of portraying the member of the group who can’t do anything right and selfishly thinks only of himself. He was also tweeting from the Hippodrome’s Twitter handle, @HippodromeBway, for the day, allowing followers to see what was going on behind the scenes and to interact with him before the show.

Lastly, Jason Kappus who played songwriter Bob Gaudio, did a great job of portraying the one member of the group who did not have a strong connection to the old Jersey neighborhood. He was the youngest of the group and it was highly entertaining to watch as the other three corrupted him, especially when the group took Gaudio to be with his first girl, a prostitute. “I gotta be romanced a little before I take my clothes off,” Gaudio told the other members of The Four Seasons. The scene was hilarious and with the addition of “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” it was a crowd favorite.

Although the entire play was engaging and well staged, one scene in particular was extremely well done. It featured The Four Seasons, played by Milanes, Kappus, Dromard, and Andrus, facing away from the audience singing. The back wall of the stage was adorned with flashing lights to give the illusion of an audience alive with excitement, cameras flashing. And while the bright, flashing lights lit up the real audience for a moment, and potentially caused some retina damage, the aesthetic was amazingly designed and great to witness.

If you’re looking for a musical that has it all: great show tunes, lots of laughs and even some heart wrenching moments, then Jersey Boys is for you. The story of four boys making it against all odds is a heartwarming one. But keep in mind, although the play does almost everything right, if you really want top-notch singing with not a single mistake in sight, you might want to catch a bus to New York City or Chicago and try seeing it there instead.

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