Applause for New Jersey? That day has come, thanks to this new musical celebrating the ups and downs of the Four Seasons. As exuberant and scrappy as its subjects — four Italian guys from the streets of Jersey who rose from small-time thugs to pop chart-toppers without losing sight of their humble roots — the show is a curious amalgamation of '60s nostalgia mixed with a Sopranos sensibility. What distinguishes it from other, less fully realized jukebox musicals that have descended on Broadway is that it has not only charm but also characters and a story with some depth.
In the hands of book writers Marshall Brickman (who co-authored the films Annie Hall and Manhattan) and Rick Elice, those characters aren't the stereotypical good or bad guys too often found in musicals. Although at times the first act progresses at a dizzying pace, and some jokes are more likely to elicit groans than chuckles, Tony-winning director Des McAnuff, along with on-the-rise choreographer Sergio Trujillo, minimizes these flaws by letting the music and his youthful cast take charge. Rather than twisting a story around songs that weren't meant to carry plot and character, many of the Four Seasons biggest hits — "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Can't Take My Eyes off You" — are staged as concert performances, while other songs are just briefly excerpted.
Christian Hoff and John Lloyd Young bring gusto to the roles of Tommy DeVito, whose missteps with the mob nearly destroyed the Four Seasons, and Frankie Valli, whose devotion to Tommy saved him and the group. Daniel Reichard makes Bob Gaudio a shrewd naivete, and J. Robert Spencer brings just enough edge to Nick Massi, the group's self-proclaimed Ringo. Like the real Four Seasons, this spirited show has an engaging balance of street smarts and showmanship savvy.
By Diane Snyder
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Christian Hoff (Tommy DeVito); Daniel Reichard (Bob Gaudio); J. Robert Spencer (Nick Massi); John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli); Peter Gregus (Bob Crew, and others); Mark Lotito (Gyp DeCarlo, and others)
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
New York, NY 10019