Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Oh, What a Night - Uh, Afternoon

I did not like The Four Seasons when they had their first hit records. I was in high school, then, and liked most popular music despite my nerd reputation. (Actually, I’m not even sure I made enough of a presence to have a nerd reputation. I was probably more like “Who?”) I did have my non-favorites, however, and some of them, like, Sherry and Big Girls Don’t Cry made it to number one on the charts. As I remember it, I didn’t like any Frankie Valli song until Let’s Hang On (To What We Got). Maybe by that time I was worn down.

So it might seem strange that I was eager to go see Jersey Boys, a jukebox musical about the rise and fall of the Franki Valli and the Four Seasons. As I said before, the Golden Opportunity group was going, and an outing to New Orleans to see a touring performance of a Broadway musical seemed like it would be fun. Besides, I didn’t realize that Jersey Boys was about the Four Seasons; I thought it was a musical like Mama Mia, in which music of my youth originally performed by singers from New Jersey (of whom there were many) were used in a completely unrelated plot. I know, Google is my friend.

The funny thing is, when I saw the musical, I loved it, every last song that I had turned off when I heard them on the radio back in high school and college. Maybe it was just having someone else sing Frankie Valli’s part, I don’t know, but I had a lot of fun.

The plot seemed very familiar, since it was largely the same one as that of the made for television movie, The Temptations. Four young men meet, form a band, some leave, some stay, new ones are added, the right mix is found, success! And then temptation on the road, addiction (drugs in one group, gambling in the other), break-up, more new members, eventual reunion at the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When the movie Walk the Line came out in 2005, one reviewer asked something like, “Didn’t we see this movie last year and wasn’t it called Ray?” The temptations of fame and life on the road are remarkably similar, but as I have had reason to say before, all ages have their storytelling conventions.

Jersey Boys isn’t about the story, however, even if it does have more dialog than, say, Les Miserables. It’s about the music, and since our group, and many of the other groups pouring off tour buses for the Thursday matinee, were about the right age to have known the music the first time around, we clapped and sang along and a few of us (not me) danced. It was fun. It’s probably just as well that I didn’t know exactly what to expect, because it would have been a shame if I had decided not to go.

Even though the stage sets were simple, the staging still had the power to surprise. Towards the end of the first act, the Four Seasons performed a number with their backs to the audience and stage lights shining from the other side of them toward us - giving the audience the effect of being on the stage looking out over the lights. It conveyed the idea of both “We’ve arrived” and “Look how isolated we are.” I enjoyed the small touches like this. It always amazes me how set designers can make a confined space work for multiple locations.

I see that plans to make a movie of Jersey Boys have been put on hold, at least as of November. All the more reason to take advantage of any touring performances that come your way.

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