Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 24, 2011

Jersey Boys

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through November 6, 2011
by Shera Cohen

“Oh, What a Night,” is not only the title of one of the Four Seasons’ hit songs, it is also the succinct description of the musical “Jersey Boys.” This chronological story of the creation of the group and the personalities of the men who made it happen is a non-stop, energetic, song filled retrospective. It puts faces to the names of the four young men from Jersey whose music has become instantly recognizable and loved.

It is no surprise that “Jersey Boys” (JB) won the Best Musical awards at the Tonies, Grammies, and Outer Critics Circle. As of July, 2011, 13 million people worldwide have loved JB. As of October 20, 2011 the number is now 13 million + 1. For those readers who are under age 20 and/or have lived in a cave for the past 40 years, the Four Seasons were one of the preeminent guy groups. Think “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Let’s Hang On,” and “Dawn” and try hard not to hum silently. It can’t be done!

Each member of the quartet narrates in four sections (aka seasons) the professional and personal highs and lows of the group and the individual men. The intertwining balance from dialogue to music and back again is seamless, as are the floating backdrops and sliding walls which set the eras apart. The boys inch their way from bowling alley gigs to empty nightclubs to eventual fame.

The main cast are superior singers who can also act. Joseph Leo Bwarie (Frankie) does well at playing shy; Preston Truman Boyd (Bobbie), the best actor of the troupe, portrays the amiable composer; Michael Lomenda (Nick) has a nice comic touch; and John Gardiner (Tommy) becomes the tough guy. More importantly, the audience wants to hear Bwarie’s falcetto coupled with the other’s skilled voices, and these boys sound as close to the real McCoy as possible. The show closes with “Who Loves You?” The answer: everyone in the Bushnell’s full house.

A note on theatre etiquette. It seemed, because of the nature of the music and story, that many in the audience were theatre newcomers. That’s wonderful – the more who support the arts the better. However, a professional venue like the Bushnell (or any other) is not the place to become inebriated and talk loudly throughout the entire performance. In spite of nicely asking our drinking neighbors to please be quite, being shrugged off, and then the house manager’s Herculean efforts ignored made for a tainted evening for what could have been a fabulous night at the theatre.