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“Jersey Boys”: A Musical for Guys

November 13, 2012

The dialogue is street-tough and profane, with enough f-bombs to make Joe Pesci blush. Its leading characters alternate between performing music and doing time for burglary at the Rahway state correctional facility. Despite all that, the group’s music plays an intrinsic role in the soundtrack of the Baby Boom generation.

Let’s face it: “Jersey Boys” – the bio-play of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons currently running at Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts – is a musical for guys. Am I right or am I right?

On top of that, Joe Pesci is even a character in the two-and-a-half hour musical, having been credited in real life for bringing Valli together with his lifelong creative partner Bob Gaudio. Who knew?

The current cast, charged with singing 33 of the group’s greatest and lesser-known hits, is in fine voice and gives a more than satisfactory performance. The greatest challenge comes in replicating Valli’s three-and-one-half-octave range, and actor Nick Cosgrove does a fine job rising (note for note) to the challenge. Cosgrove’s voice is a bit thinner and doesn’t quite sound like the original, but that does little to detract from the enjoyment of hearing “Sherry,” “Walk Like Man,” “Rag Doll” and other Four Seasons hits live.

The story by UW graduate Marshall Brickman, a collaborator with Woody Allen on the scripts for “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan,” traces the group from its founding by Tommy DeVito (John Gardiner) and Nick Massi (Adam Zelasko) to the recruitment of Valli and eventually Gaudio (Miles Jacoby.) The action unfolds in the clubs, bowling alleys and studios, as well as under the streetlamps were the doo-wop sound first evolved.

And “Jersey Boys” is a musical that really churns, covering decades, life challenges and a string of hits faster than your fingers can snap. The performance ends as many musicals do with a gala performance of “Who Loves You?” that has the audience on its feet singing and dancing with the cast.

Even the guys, and especially the tough ones. They get “Jersey Boys” and know what it means to walk like a man, even if you have a three-and-one-half-octave range.

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