July 1, 2011
What a night with ‘Jersey Boys’
By ROGER SMITH - For the Star Beacon
Star Beacon The Star Beacon Fri Jul 01, 2011, 01:00 AM EDT
CLEVELAND — Oh, What a Night!
Three thousand people can’t be wrong. That’s how many were standing and clapping and yelling at the end of “Jersey Boys,” now playing in the State Theater at Playhouse Square in Cleveland.
And clap and yell they should! “Jersey Boys’” is one of the most exciting shows going. It won the Tony Award for the Best Musical in 2006, the Best Musical Album 2006 Grammy Award, and the Olivier Award in 2009 for the Best New Musical.
Because I began dancing to the pop songs of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons at Eastern Kentucky University in 1962, the music brought back part of my youth — and I like that. Most of the audience at the State had either white hair or no hair, but they had big smiles and lots of ‘do you remember’ conversations as they exited the theater. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in the minds of the teenagers I saw at the production, teenagers who are subjected to a different kind of music and a different kind of society.
The singers onstage treated the audience to 30-plus memorable songs, each of which could be sung by almost everyone in the theater. And there was some audience singing going on. Ultimately, the show is about Franki Valli and The Four Seasons, sung and acted by a quartet of pure talent.
Of course, the favorite of the evening was Joseph Leo Bwarie, who was cast in the role of Valli. In addition to having toured 35 cities in that role, his recent film roles include “The Princess Diaries 2,” “Race to Witch Mountain” and “Valentine’s Day.” Oh, What a Voice! This young man grabbed the audience and held them in the palm of his hand the entire evening. His vocal range and onstage presence combined to amaze everyone within earshot.
Steve Gouveia, Quinn Vanantwerp and Matt Bailey as “Seasons” Nick Massi, Bob Gaudio and Tommy DeVito, were equally talented players in “Jersey Boys,” making the evening nothing short of a magical return to the 1960s. Each of these guys boasts musical and theater experience that most actors would kill for.
Simply but effectively staged, the sets and scenes changed rapidly, allowing for no break in the action. And the “Jersey Boys” orchestra was nothing short of spectacular. All in all, the songs, the memories, the music and the visual ambiance combined to make an evening that will hang around for a long, long time.
Oh, What a Night you’ll have if you make the trek to Playhouse Square between now and July 17 to see “Jersey Boys.” And just a little heads up, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons will be at Playhouse Square performing his catalog of hits on Dec. 10. Tickets for all Playhouse Square events may be ordered by phoning 241-6000 or at www.playhousesquare.org