Stage center Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were smooth as silk; backstage, behind the scenes, the blue-collar boys from Newark lived hard, played hard, and paid for their for their sins.

The Vegas version of The Jersey Boys
perform the hit Four Saasons song, "Sherri".

Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the show that won four Tony awards in 2006, including Best Broadway Musical, has opened at the Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Set primarily in the ‘60s and ‘70s, audiences are invited to step behind the music and experience the events that took the group from harmonizing on the corner all the way to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Divided into two tight acts, with four seasons, the stars: Rick Faugno as Franki Valli, Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio, Jeremy Kushnier as Tommy DeVito, and Jeff Leibow as Nick Massi, each share a unique perspective. The seasons change along with the singers’ finances, love lives, interests, and of course, the music.

What gives Jersey Boys its perfect balance is Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s
tongue and cheek dialogue. Heavy moments are tempered with jibs and jokes, only to be blown away by another of Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe’s hit songs.

The Jersey Boys as The
Four Seasons perform "Dawn".

Brickman and Elice have brilliantly juxtaposed the mobbed up realm that helped spawn Frank Valli and The Four Seasons with the elation and riches of the wide world of success and excess. The audience is given a rare, under-the-skin opportunity to mature with the group. Songs are inspired by meetings, break-ups, marriage, and divorce; coming of age, taking responsibility and avoiding it. Each individual’s personal demons are exposed, and, no matter what anyone does, the group takes precedence over everything else.

Director Des McAnuff has deftly fleshed out Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, making them so likable that even when one of them crosses the line the others are there to pull him back. They’re a team. They’re loyal to one another. In fact, we witness a type of loyalty that has all but disappeared.

The original Four Seasons in 1967;
left to right - Long, Valli, Gaudio, DeVito.

McAnuff’s direction manages to integrate the city’s skyline with all it implies — hopes and dreams, limitations and aspirations. When he positions the four singers with their backs to the audience he makes us feel as if we are backstage watching people we know. A sense of intimacy allows the audience to experience the sensation of receiving a standing ovation.

“Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Working My Way Back to You”, Walk Like a Man”, “Sherry”, “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”, “Rag Doll”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” may be oldies but goodies, but in this fast-paced musical they are fresh and exciting.

Klara Zieglerova’s architecturally blunt sets take us from the blue-collar neighborhood to the glamorous mecca that was Rat Pack Vegas. On one hand the skyline pushes dreamers to rise above the mire while the spacious, hard-edged sets imply confinement. Howell Binkley’s lighting design translates highs and lows throughout. Costume designer Jess Goldstein measures time, age, and character with wardrobe selections ranging from prison drab to nightclub dazzling.

The Jersey Boys perform
"Walk Like A Man".

Unlike most Broadway-to-Vegas shows, the producers — of which there are many — have had the good sense to keep the show in two acts. During a short intermission vintage video clips are used to convey the times, places, and careers of Frank Valli and the Four Seasons. Not the least of which was their induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Bob Gaudio wrote his first hit — Who Wears Short Shorts at fifteen. He was ambitious, self-confident, and naïve. Erich Bergen plays Gaudio with the youthful cockiness of a teenager, then builds to walking like a man, evolving into the mature, retired songwriter he is today. Rick Faugno plays Frankie Valli with a convincing blend of youthful innocence and mature angst. The superstar singer is torn between the responsibilities of his career and those of his family. His rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” evokes memories for those of us who heard the song in 1967 while wowing new generations who are hearing it for the first time.

The "Recording Studio" scene
from The Jersey Boys at the Palazzo.

Jeremy Kushnier makes us like Tommy DeVito even when he’s conning someone or gambling the group’s money away. Jeff Leibow as Nick Massi rounds out the fourth with his likable yet flawed character and beautiful singing voice. The supporting cast, many of whom have performed on Broadway, are also excellent.

If you close your eyes and listen to the sweet sounds of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons you can’t help but feel good. These male voices are synchronized and in perfect harmony. It doesn’t matter if family life hit rock-bottom, or if the mob is calling in a million dollar debt, these Jersey Boys hang together — through thick and thin — from gig to gig, and from decade to decade.

Frankie Valli still performs in Vegas;
his latest album from 2007 is
"Romancing The '60s".

If you love music and you’re looking for a great story, Jersey Boys is an excellent choice. The theater is new and seemingly designed to allow everyone a good view of the stage. There are a few disclaimers: there’s smoke, gunshots and “authentic Jersey language”. It’s recommended for audiences 12 and older. Children under five will not be admitted. Check the web site for up-to-date information.

The Palazzo has whipped up some exotic “Four Seasons” drinks that can be purchased before the show and during intermission. Drinks with alcohol are pricey.

Performances are at 7 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. On Tuesday and Saturday there is a 7 p.m. and a 10 p.m. performance. The show is dark Wednesday.

For reservations call: 866/641-7469 or 702/414-9000. On line: Tickets are $147.70 for front orchestra and loge, $103.70 for the rear orchestra, $70.70 for the mezzanine, and if you want to have the VIP treatment complete with a private entrance and front of the house seating with a few Jersey Boys gifts, tickets are $257.70 each. 

Feature by Linda Lane, Jetsetters Magqzine Theatre and Entertainment Editor; photos courtesy of the Palazzo.

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