"My Eyes Adore You"
"Walk Like a Man"
"Who Loves You"
These song titles alone compel you to start singing in falsetto like pop singer Frankie Valli, much to the annoyance of anyone within earshot.
Thankfully, in the Chicago production of Jersey Boys, which is now entering its second smash year at the Bank of America Theatre, Dominic Scaglione Jr. effortlessly recreates the infamous pop singer’s vocals and blue collar charm without making you cringe. In fact, you’ll most likely cheer.
The volume of hit tunes produced by this group is astounding, with due credit to Bob Gaudio, the group’s wunderkind songwriter. Almost more impressive is the storyline of the group’s propulsion to legendary status, which celebrates hard work, raw talent and the lost art of negotiation (aka: the occasional threat and bribe).
Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman’s lean book, guided by director Des McAnuff’s deft hand, offers entertaining one liners and clever consolidation of time in the group’s long and twisting rise-to-fame tale. However, the story rushes by so rapidly and crams in so many snippets of the group’s hit songs (perhaps in an attempt to not bore the audience with too much dialogue) it’s hard to make any real connection with any of the Jersey Boys until late in the second act.
The audience is left to root for underdeveloped -- nearly stock -- characters, and root they do.
The show greatly benefits from seeing the show more than once -- this is my second time seeing this cast. Glossed over details and expository information are more easily absorbed after gaining familiarity with the pace and tone of the show.
That said, it’s an extremely entertaining production, and this cast is a winner. As mentioned, Scaglione is tasked with recreating Valli’s singular falsetto. I don’t know how he does it, but Scaglione has even more energy and charisma then when I originally saw him in this production a few months ago. In fact, the entire cast remains extremely consistent. Standouts include Michael Cunio as Tommy DeVito, equipped with that quintessential Italian Jersey swagger, and the lithe, golden-voiced Shonn Wiley as Gaudio, who pens the group’s hits.
Mention should also be made to the three talented "Jersey Girls" in the cast -- Merissa Haddad, Alayna Gallo and Sydney Morton -- who each play countless characters, including wives, waitresses, and "the other woman."
The production continues to capture the spirit and spark of these beloved, rough and tumble pop titans, and I’m sure it will have a long life as part of the Broadway in Chicago series.
Jersey Boys, presented by Broadway in Chicago, is an open-ended run at the Bank of America Theatre. For more information and tickets, contact 312-902-1400 or visit www.broadwayinchicago.com