Jersey Boys at the Hult, March 1-6, 2016

Jersey has taken over the Hult, and audiences are happy.

            Long-running Broadway hit “Jersey Boys” opened last night, and with its familiar tunes and Cinderella story – of four charming guys who make their way from singing under a streetlamp, to selling out shows across the country – how could it not appeal? People love this stuff.

            Aaron De Jesus has some big shoes to fill as Fankie Valli. How often does a voice like his come along? Still, De Jesus is game, with a rich falsetto and tons of energy.

            Matthew Dailey brings a wise guy charm to his role as Tommy DeVito, really nailing the Newark accent. (This reviewer lived in Staten Island for seven years, which might as well be New Jersey…)

            Keith Hines as Nick Massi possesses a thuggish charisma, and as the “baby” of the group – teen wonder Bob Gaudio – Drew Seeley has an ‘aw shucks’ sensibility that draws the audience in.

            All singers are first rate.

            Under direction by Des McAnuff, the production chugs along. One can see why it’s done so well – it asks little of the audience, with a cheery biographical story laid out through short vignettes, but mostly, it’s about the songs. There are just so many great songs. Even if you’re not of the generation that heard these songs on the radio when they aired for the first time, you can probably still appreciate the otherworldly hooks built into every single hit after hit. It’s quite a canon.

            “Jersey Boys” touches on the group’s burgeoning appeal, by relating to the many popular groups at the time, and their penchant for imitation. The Coasters, the Four Tops, the Temptations… In a sense, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons owe a debt of gratitude to groups that pioneered a music and movement brand.  

            Choreographer Sergio Trujillo borrows a generous helping of the subtle unison movements that defined the era, but at times, there’s something almost too perfect, too strong, in their execution. Part of what made dance an integral part of these sixties quartets was its approachability – adding a little razzle-dazzle, but mostly, inviting audiences in. The quartet here executes their moves with polish and precision, but sometimes could have dialed back the crispness to find a little more sex appeal.

            The story of the meteoric rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons continues in Eugene for another week.

            Now if this reviewer could just get those darn songs out of her head… 

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