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Jersey Boys gets raves in Charlotte


JERSEY BOYS, the Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning hit musical, received rave reviews in Charlotte, NC at the Belk Theatre at the Blumenthal Center where it opened Friday, April 2 (performances began March 31) and will play through Sunday, April 18.  From Charlotte, JERSEY BOYS will play Buffalo, NY’s Shea Performing Arts Center Wednesday, April 21 through Sunday, May 9.
Lawrence Toppman of the Charlotte Observer, writes:
When Rolling Stone ranked the 500 greatest pop songs of all time last year, The Four Seasons didn’t make the list even once.  
Maybe they were mainstream too long ago for hip pundits to care today. Maybe they were too derivative or calculatedly commercial. Maybe British Invasion and Motown groups are all critics recall of the first half of the 1960s. But theatergoers who’ve bought out a three-week run of “Jersey Boys” do remember.
Some are drawn by hype: four Tonys (including best musical), a Grammy for the cast album and acclaim from critics and folks who saw it in New York or Las Vegas or on tour. (Charlotte had to wait an extra year; Belk Theater didn’t have a multi-week slot for it last season.)

But many fans simply loved the falsetto-driven strains of “Sherry” – more accurately, “Sheh-heh-HEH-heh-heh-heh-reeeeee” – and two dozen other hook-laden songs released between 1961 and 1975.
The leads playing the blue-collar foursome toss those off with attitude and aplomb, as the show whirls ceaselessly around them. (Actors dash onstage to move bits of the set and play dozens of supporting characters. Even Charlotte native Jonathan Hadley, sharply funny as producer Bob Crewe, has to take on other parts.)
Yet strange to say, the best thing about this show is not the music. It’s the chemistry among those four leads, whose characters could sustain harmony only under a spotlight.
You can tell what kinds of people these are even when they perform in forced unison. Insecure Tommy DeVito (Matt Bailey), who sees himself as the group’s founder and boss, wears a wary, anxious look.
Presumably placid Nick Massi (Steve Gouveia) smiles noncommittally, careful not to show hurt feelings. Urbane Bob Gaudio (Ryan Jesse) enjoys the excitement without getting sucked into the drama.
And Frankie Valli carries the brunt of the pathos, whether in the keening high notes of the songs or his innocent face. I can’t imagine Joseph Leo Bwarie will ever get another role that suits him so exactly: He’s short and unconventionally handsome in Valli’s way, and he can soar through the songs yet show a quiet gentleness in Act 2, when writers Rick Elise and Marshall Brickman finally tap into deeper emotions.
An enterprise this carefully calibrated relies on unsung heroes. Drummer Mark Papazian locked down a steady beat every time. Actor John Edwards sailed through high notes of his own in multiple parts and (if I saw correctly) rocked a trombone solo. Sarah Darling, Denise Payne and Kara Tremel – incredibly, the only women in the show – added brass, sass or class to countless roles.
Songs all have faster tempos than the originals, partly so more music can be crammed in but also to give the numbers extra juice. When the production quiets down briefly in act 2, its pulse is steady; when it gets louder, it’s electrifying.

Theatergoers who left the Belk Friday night were met, as they often are, by a brass band romping through “I Feel Good” out on Tryon Street. For the first time ever, James Brown’s anthem seemed as soothing as a lullaby by comparison.
To read the review online, click here

The cast of JERSEY BOYS is lead by Matt Bailey (Tommy DeVito), Joseph Leo Bwarie (Frankie Valli), original Broadway cast member Steve Gouveia (Nick Massi), Ryan Jesse (Bob Gaudio), with Jonathan Hadley and Joseph Siravo.

The ensemble of JERSEY BOYS includes Michelle Aravena, Candi Boyd, Sarah Darling, Christopher DeAngelis, John Edwards, Graham Fenton, John Gardiner, Buck Hujabre, Leo Huppert, Denise Payne, Nathan Scherich, Brian Silverman, Courter Simmons, Ryan Strand, Kara Tremel and Kevin Worley.

JERSEY BOYS is the winner of the 2006 Best Musical Tony Award®, the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
Directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Des McAnuff, JERSEY BOYS is written by Academy Award-winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.
JERSEY BOYS opened at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway to critical acclaim on November 6, 2005.  The JERSEY BOYS National Tour opened to rave reviews in San Francisco on December 1, 2006, played a record-breaking run in Los Angeles and is still breaking house records in cities across North America.  There are six current productions of JERSEY BOYS:  New York, London, Las Vegas, Toronto, a US National tour, and Melbourne, Australia.
JERSEY BOYS is the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. It’s a journey of how a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were thirty.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording of JERSEY BOYS was produced by Bob Gaudio, and was recently certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The cast recording is now available on Rhino Records. JERSEY BOYS: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (Broadway Books) is the official handbook to the smash Broadway hit.


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