In a performance nearly “too good to be true,” I couldn’t “take my eyes off” Jersey Boys, one of the crowning achievements of the Kennedy Center’s 50th anniversary season. Directed by Tony Award winner Des McAnuff, the show generates a fun spirit that will make you want to shake and shimmy in the aisles.
Several of the songs in this musical stand out: “Walk Like a Man,” “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “My Eyes Adored You,” “Working My Way Back to You,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” The show tells the backstory of some of the group’s songs and the origin of their name The Four Seasons.
In 2006, Jersey Boys won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, after it premiered on Broadway in 2005. It won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 2009. In 2014, Clint Eastwood made a wonderful film adaptation of it.
Marshall Brickman and Rick Ellice wrote Jersey Boys’ book, and legendary music producer and songwriter Bob Crewe wrote the lyrics. Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio, who wrote the hit “Who Wears Short Shorts” at age 15, wrote the music. Noah Turner and John Miller’s music direction and music coordination were impeccable. The choreography of Sergio Trujillo kept every step of the four leads crisp.
The four leads were embodied by Justin Albinder (Frankie Valli), Eric Chambliss (Gaudio), Matt Faucher (Nick Massi), and Devon Goffman (Tommy DeVito). On press night, Albinder, Jon Hacker’s understudy, was superb. Albinder’s parts were played by Jared Chinnock that night. The four leads excelled in vocals and dance moves as a group on many of the songs.
Frankie Valli (formerly Frankie Castelluccio) is a golden-voiced singer who gave The Four Seasons a unique sound that was hard to pin down. When the group first hit big with “Sherry” in August 1962, no one knew if they were all women, men and women, or “colored.” Valli was also a man with a complex personal life, often spending more time on the road than with his family. Besides his amazing vocals, Albinder brought Valli’s complexity to life.
Gaudio narrated much of the first act from his point of view. Chambliss portrayed Gaudio as a musical savant who was tough in the music business but a lost soul with the ladies. Gaudio described himself “as the one Italian who doesn’t like the drama!” Chambliss gave me the impression that he was the conscience of the group and the show.
What can you say about Devon Goffman as the irrepressible hood-turned-entertainer Tommy DeVito? From his off-color jokes to his wiseguy swagger, DeVito was entertainment at its most pure. Goffman portrayed DeVito as a tough Jersey guy who helped take The Four Seasons from playing at places like Seabreeze Dinner Club to the big time.
Matt Faucher, a CT Critics Circle Award winner, played Nick Massi as the quiet and much put-upon member of the group. He said little for much of the show, but when he spoke he revealed biting insights about the inner workings of The Four Seasons — including some unsavory things about DeVito.
Antonio King, in his national tour debut, lent vocals, dancing, and acting with a touch of contemporary funk to a variety of roles, including DJ Berry Belson. He even added a rap to the opening number, “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night).”
Katie Goffman played Valli’s wife, Mary Delgado, with a Jersey-girl’s sharp edge. When she verbally tore into Valli because of his shortcomings, it was as if her eyes were sharper than any laser. Goffman also served as dance captain. Connor Lyon made me feel for Lorraine, Valli’s mistress.
Sean Mcgee’s music producer Crewe was flamboyant and acidic with members of the band when verbally sparring in the recording studio. I liked the sternness of Alec Michael Ryan as mobster Gyp DeCarlo. Ryan would take DeCarlo from tough-as-nails one minute to emotional and soft the next.
The most impressive aspect of Michael Clark’s projection design was how he projected a live musical performance of the actors onto the screen above, recreating an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Jess Goldstein’s costumes evoked the early ’60s and made the cast look glamorously larger than life. Klara Zieglerov’s scenic design was minimal but effective.
Jersey Boys is not just a great musical but a great drama. If you stick around until after the curtain call, you may get a bonus number. If you’re looking for a memorable summer show — especially to share with loved ones — don’t miss this one.
Running Time: Two hours 40 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Jersey Boys plays through June 26, 2022, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($49–$159) can be purchased (click “View All Times”) online.
The Jersey Boys program is online here.
COVID Safety: Masks are required for all patrons inside all theaters during performances at the Kennedy Center unless actively eating or drinking. See Kennedy Center’s complete COVID Safety Plan here.
Eric Chambliss: Bob Gaudio
Matt Faucher: Nick Massi
Devon Goffman: Tommy DeVito
Jon Hacker/Justin Albinder: Frankie Valli
Jared Chinnock: Swing
Amy Coelho: Francine and others
Kenneth Quinney Francoeur: Swing
Katie Goffman: Mary Delgado and others, Dance Captain
Antonio King: Berry Belson and others
Connor Lyon: Lorraine and others
Kevin Patrick Martin: Hank Majewski, Norm Waxman and others, Fight Captain
Sean Mcgee: Bob Crewe and others
Madison Mcgrew: Swing
Hamilton Moore: Swing
Alec Michael Ryan: Gyp DeCarlo and others
ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE TEAM
Director: Des Mcanuff
Book: Marshall Brickman
Book: Rick Elice
Composer: Bob Gaudio
Lyricist: Bob Crewe
Choreographer: Sergio Trujillo
Music Supervision, Vocal/Dance Arrangements and Incidental Music: Ron Melrose
Scenic Design: Klara Zieglerova
Jess Goldstein: Costume Design
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Steve Canyon Kennedy
Projection Design: Michael Clark
Hair and Wig Design: Charles Lapointe
Fight Director: Steve Rankin
Steve Orich: Orchestrations
John Miller: Music Coordinator
Noah Turner: Music Director
Tara Rubin Casting: Casting
Michael Bello: Associate Director
Danny Austin: Associate Choreographer