Certainly, there's a wealth of drama and more than a hint of scandal in the band's rise to fame and subsequent break up, but "Jersey Boys" is about the music. There's humor, some petty crime, and a little Joe Pesci mixed in with several layers of history and story, neatly weaving together this tidy musical comedy. Ultimately, the show is an inspiring and slickly packaged love story to the American dream; and, as such, it is a charming, hummable success.
The actors are all strong singers, and many show a well-honed sense of timing, driving the humorous moments as well as the few conflicts. Hayden Milanes as Frankie displays his range to great effect, and genuinely captures the pure and instinctively artful grace of Frankie Valli. Nicolas Dromard plays Tommy DeVito to near perfection, with a persuasive bravado and convincing tone. He is manipulative and secretive in the most seductive of ways, building confidence and self-esteem in his band mates while he remains in control.
Quinn VanAntwerp, as Frankie's longtime business partner, stands out in the quartet for the quiet power he brings to Bob Gaudia. His demeanor and voice, whether spoken or sung, seems a melodious contrast to Tommy, which plays well with the story's themes. Adam Zelasko, as Nick Massi, is the perfect neighborhood complement to Tommy, with a hard exterior, deep pure voice, and insightful observations. Zelasko's Nick finds his character's depth, revealing an honest, if somewhat simple, integrity. Together, the four men harmonize well and display a nuanced touch with the phrasing.
The band is well supported by a superb ensemble cast, particularly the three women who fill approximately 50 roles between them. The benefit to these roles is an abundance of beautifully fitted, appropriately sparkled costumes and wigs, as well as the chance to stretch an artistic muscle distinguishing each character.
The three actresses, Jaycie Dotin, Marlana Dunn, and Rachel Schur, are to be commended for their skillful execution of a daunting task. They harmonize and blend seamlessly when together onstage and each has at least one singular moment. Of particular note, Dunn as Mary, Frankie's first wife, Schur as Francine, Frankie's daughter, and Dotin as reporter turned love interest, Lorraine.
There also are a number of notable male actors who stand out in the ensemble, including Barry Anderson, De'Lon Grant, Thomas Fiscella, and John Rochete, as well as the capable band, under conductor Ben Hartman. Finally, the show is well-supported from a technical standpoint, the use of neon signage and seamless transitions and costume changes that kept the pace moving briskly, examples of the successful and visually engaging production.
If there is an ingredient missing to this show, it is that mix of emotional connection and character depth that compels an audience to feel with the actors. While the use of back-to-the-audience staging can be effective, there were numerous times during the show when I wished that the actors weren't facing quite so far upstage. For me, this was a particular problem in the scenes between Francine and Frankie. I desperately wanted to see their faces, and to feel a deeper emotional tug.
"Jersey Boys" keeps its focus on the music, complemented by a little storytelling, so the dramatic tension is minimal. However, the energy and focus given to the songs and the hopeful, enthusiastic sense of fun embraced by the performers delivers an enjoyable, perhaps even bouncy, evening of quality entertainment.
"Jersey Boys" runs through March 2, 2014 at the fabulous Fox Theatre. For reservations or more information, call (314) 534-1111 or visit www.fabulousfox.com.