Thursday, January 05, 2012
"Jersey Boys" at the National Theater in Washington DC
Tonight, Jan. 5, I attended a performance of the jutebox musical “Jersey Boys” at the National Theater in Washington DC. The run ends soon.
The formal title is “Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons”. The musical is set up in four scenes, one for each season (starting with Spring), each narrated by a different principal of the Four Seasons band of the 60s, with all the music coming from songs by Bob Gaudio.
The four “movements” are narrated in turn by Tommy DeVito (John Gardiner), Bob Gaudio (Preston Truman Boyd), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), and Frankie Valli himself (a virile Joseph Leo Brawie). There is a triumphant epilogue as the group reunites (as young men out of a time machine) at the Rock
The docudrama style turns to tragedy in the second half. The group gets in financial trouble, gets put in jail (didn’t think that should happen for debt), and bailed out by a loan shark. But then at the end Frankie’s daughter, the “fallen angel”, dies of a drug overdose. But ironically Frankie himself is almost “the angel” of the group, despite or perhaps because of his deft dealings with the mob. (This is my second straight Broadway musical, following “Sister Act”, to deal with the mob in comic ways.)
The music gathers momentum in the Summer segment, with some of the most familiar numbers like “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, and “Walk Like a Man”
In a winter where the movies have offered “The Artist” and where the effect of copyright on creativity is being hotly debated, the musical is a welcome adventure into the world of group “creativity”, in an earlier generation – where organized crime could target young groups all too easily to “help them out”. The musical numbers, in a kind of punk rock style (in a deliberately shrill and high-pitched voices, ironic given the virility of the young men), which sometimes becomes romantic and expressive, are all very familiar. I remember hearing many of them in the barracks when I was in the Army in the late 60s.
There is some social commentary, as when Massi says he pretended to be an uncle to his kids so he could cheat (a thought which goes both ways). There are some wisecracks about conflicts between being in the performing and creative arts and raising families.
The National Theater has three balconies and is not very deep; I was in the top balcony and found some of the top of the stage (where art work is shown) hidden. The prosceniums cut off the width of the stage, when compared to others, and reduce the aspect ratio.
I have previously seen “Canterbury Tales: Part 2” and “Les Miserables” at the Nationla.
British film producer Graham King has acquired the rights to make the film version of “Jersey Boys” for GK Films. IMDB has little information for the 2014 planned release. GK has worked with a number of Hollywood studios and distributors, in both big budget and art-house mode. It would sound likely the Columbia Pictures and the renewed MGM would be interested. (I like lions.) A film version would cost plenty, well over $100 million to make well. Would the director of "The Artist" (Michel Hazanavicius) make a good choice? Also, would someone make a film about ‘Nsync and its “Popoddysey?” (which I saw in Minneapolis in 2001)? Justin Timberlake just “took the dive”; maybe now is the time.
The official site for the Jersey show is here.
YouTube from Broadway.com:
First picture: The National Theater in a backdrop from Occupy DC at Freedom Plaza.
Below: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, wikipedia attribution. My last visit to the area was in 2010, but I have not yet been able to visit the museum. I visited Cleveland a lot in the summer during boyhood.
Why do Broadway shows charge $10 for a soft drink in concessions? Even movie theaters still charge less than 5.