Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical, meaning the score is a string of the band’s original hits. Chances are you’ve come across the songs before; their early career bubble-gum numbers like "Sherry"; "Big Girls Don’t Cry"; and "Walk Like a Man"; to their greatest hits "December 1963(Oh, What a Night)" and "Can’t Take My Eyes off You". These songs were revived for the musical which ran on Broadway from 2005 to 2017, winning four Tony’s including "Best New Musical". There have been two North American tours, productions in London’s West End, and tours across world from South Africa to Australia and now Shanghai. The musical was also made into a 2014 movie directed by Clint Eastwood.
The production manages to rise above the level of nostalgic tribute concert with a sharp book by Marshall Brickman (of Annie Hall fame) and Rick Elice. It's structured in a documentary-style with the members of the band talking directly to the audience, each providing insight on the group's rollercoaster ride to fame with some rough and tumble neighborhood pride sprinkled in ("If you think that... you ain't from Jersey").
The story was pieced together through countless interviews with the band’s surviving members, so it’s like a true story bro. Even the part about Joe Pesci finding the final member of the band, Bob Gaudio. (Yes really.)
It's a teensy bit difficult to keep track of all the characters at the musical's start, especially since a few of the actors lend themselves to several roles. Basically what you need to know is The Four Seasons began with a group of friends in 1960’s Belleville and most of the first half is about the obstacles of forming the band with members in and out of the slammer, artistic differences, and all that classic rock 'n' roll doo wop stuff. This depiction of the group's early days holds the most charm, when it was "just a few guys under a street lamp singing someone else's latest hit."
At the center of the group is Frankie Valli with his unique voice, which is described by the other characters as that of an angel and conversely... a cat in heat. They're not wrong. Super high, it takes a minute to get used to, but you can’t help but swoon for the sound right after Frankie’s first big number: "I Can’t Give You Anything But Love". And the moment he broke out Can’t Take My Eyes off You in the show's second half, the crowd went wild.
Another highlight is when "December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" is sung at a Christmas party while a young Gaudio loses his v-card. It all makes so much more sense now.
(Also important note: the actor who plays Gaudio will unnecessarily take his shirt off at some point. You will not be ready. There were audible gasps from the audience... I tell you this so you can come across chiller than we did).
Friendship. Fighting. Romance. Thick Jersey drawls. That’s the stuff Jersey Boys is made of. It's glitzy with a touch of Tony Soprano and chock full of punchy one-liners. And the music is grrrreat. Mostly upbeat and fun, you’ll be listening to the soundtrack for days to follow, fruitlessly trying to hit Frankie’s falsetto in the shower.
Tickets: Jersey Boys will be showing at Daning Theater until December 9. Starting at 299rmb, you can get your tickets right here.