The Broadway Hit Comes to Dayton
As the world we live in seems more interested in the Jersey shore…or the “real” housewives of New Jersey…Dayton gets to see the JERSEY BOYS roll into town. There is more reality in this musical, which won a Tony Award, than in either of the aforementioned shows. This musical is the kind that you can bring “the guys” to and they may actually enjoy it more than an afternoon at the local sports pub.
How did four blue-collar kids become one of the greatest successes in pop music history? You can find out at the runaway smash-hit, JERSEY BOYS. Winner of the Best Musical Tony Award on Broadway, in London and Australia, this blockbuster show takes you up the charts, across the country and behind the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Experience electrifying performances of the golden greats that took these guys all the way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Dawn,” “My Eyes Adored You,” and more.
Just like life … this musical has some adult moments. It wasn’t all fun and games as these kids grew up and developed into a singing sensation. These were street kids, kids that experienced everything from prostitutes to jail time. Yet they managed to develop and sing some of the most popular songs to date. There are a lot of musicals out there that develop a story line to go along with the songs (think Mamma Mia)…this is quite different. The songs were developed and rather than a story to go along with the song, you get to learn the story behind each songs.
The story dramatizes the forming, rise and eventual break-up of the original four members of The Four Seasons. The musical is separated into four “seasons”, each narrated by a different member of the band. Act 1 comprises Spring (Tommy DeVito) & Summer (Bob Gaudio); Act 2 comprises Fall (Nick Massi) & Winter (Frankie Valli); each member has a different perspective on the band and his contribution to it.
The New Jersey turnpike that is many times viewed with an industrial skyline has served as a backdrop for many shows about The Garden State. This production allows us more insight into some of the other things that are going on in and around the turnpike. This is the setting for this jukebox musical.
JERSEY BOYS Director Des McAnuff has taken this fact-based story and shows us how this group overcomes their tough beginnings. The songs – which are all very familiar – help to define the characters and become true performance pieces. This is a jukebox musical in which an engrossing, carefully constructed plot with sharp dialogue is actually given heft by the interruptions of hit tunes.
While three of the boys — Frankie Valli, Nick Massi, and Tommy DeVito — are natives of New Jersey, the fourth, Bronx-born Bob Gaudio, was undoubtedly validated because he was living in Bergen County when he joined the musical group through an introduction initiated by an obnoxiously pushy kid named Joe Pesci. That’s right. Pesci was destined to be a movie star and the future employer of DeVito, who hit the skids after leaving the group in 1970. Heavily in debt to the mob and essentially exiled to Las Vegas, DeVito was a sterling singer/guitarist, but nevertheless a hood at heart. In this musical that gives equal opportunity to each of the Jersey boys, DeVito (Colby Foytik), who has the brass of a mob soldier right out of the Soprano TV series, gets first crack at telling the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
The so-called jukebox musical genre has taken it on the chin with the likes of Mamma Mia! or walloped at the box-office like Good Vibrations and All Shook Up. What gives JERSEY BOYS its authority and superiority over the others is not the expectedly exhilarating staging of the popular songs but our growing affection for this group that produced over $100 million in sales. In the end, however, it is the honest and affecting book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice that provides some real insights into the colliding personalities of these immensely talented young men.
Since the show takes into account four points of view, it is remarkably cohesive despite altering the perspective with generous doses of grit, cleverness and warmth. Despite the fact that there are 33 songs listed, many given in bits and pieces, the signature songs are fully considered and make their prescribed impact.
An unexpectedly coarse but credible tone is established at the outset as DeVito (Foytik), with his proclivity for planning and carrying out heists, leads his gullible pals astray and lands him and Massi in the clink. Massi, who would create the vocal arrangements for the group, sing bass and play bass guitar, is poignantly revealed as the most conflicted regarding his loyalty to the bossy DeVito.
I had the opportunity to talk to Colby Foytik who plays Tommy DeVito. According to Foytik this was one of his dream roles. He says “DeVito is the guy you love to hate – a wonderful character.”
Foytik, who was born in southern California, spent most of his youth interested in music – playing the saxophone – not in theatre. After high school he attended one year of college and then had the opportunity to get into theatre. Wanting to build a resume he took roles in shows in southern California. Foytik says “nothing fulfilled me as much as being on stage.” Knowing that he wanted to perfect his craft – he enrolled in Ithaca College and received his BFA in musical theatre – graduating in 1999. He moved to New York in August of that same year. He was a non-Equity actor so he took a regional role in Sleeping Beauty that rehearsed at Radio City Music Hall but performed in Virginia. For the next ten years he did regional, summer stock, off-Broadway, cruise ships and even performed in Russia. Then he settled in Cleveland and heard about an audition for the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof. While he felt he was probably just auditioning for a chorus/villager role…he was cast as Perchik. He toured for nearly a year and a half and had the opportunity to work with the likes of Topol, and Harvey Fierstein in the role of Tevye. The Fiddler on the Roof tour was a tough one says Foytik – each of the runs were about one week long – meaning your only day off became a travel day.
JERSEY BOYS is a much different kind of tour. Each of the runs lasts three weeks or longer, which allows the cast a little bit of time to get to know the city during their “golden days” – also known as days off.
When asked about his favorite roles – Foytik named three. “George” in Sunday in the Park with George – “Jamie” in The Last Five Years – and this role “Tommy DeVito” in Jersey Boys.
Foytik had read for the part a couple times – he just read “too young” for the part, is what he kept hearing. He had a role in Dracula – and then in October of 2010 he got the call to come in for the Vegas production of JERSEY BOYS. Unlike the “norm,” his audition process moved quickly. He was called on Monday for a Wednesday audition – brought in for callbacks on Thursday (the next day) from 10am to 5pm – and at 6:30pm he got the call that he had the part! The first time he got to go on in the role of Tommy – he was dumbfounded…this was the culmination of a seven year dream.
Foytik says as hard as the cast works … no one really works as hard as “the Jersey Girls,” these three women who play over 50 roles – I might just have to find out more about them! He says “they work their asses off.”
When asked about the rest of the cast … he says “this is a non-stop group of really amazing people.” He said that he is really blessed to be in this cast.
The show has universal appeal – Foytik says in Vegas where you see couples coming to the show…and you can tell as they arrive the man is being dragged away from the tables, a game or something…that the last thing they want to do is sit in a show…and then you see them afterward…and the guys love the show. This is the kind of show where you leave singing the songs. The kind of show that makes you want to dance a bit during the show. The audience will know 90% of the songs.
The script is nearly word perfect, telling the story of the life that was led by these guys. The book is by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice – music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe.
An interesting question about musicals…if you take the music away are you left with a great play? That is just the case with this musical. Back to the original question…do you know the Jersey Boys? Probably not! This is your chance to learn a bit more…and enjoy some amazing music. You don’t want to miss this high energy show!
This is another blockbuster that you just don’t want to miss! This will prove to be a great night of music…drama…and entertainment. You only have 3 weeks to catch this show. Come enjoy a night out at the theatre…and while you’re at it have dinner downtown too!
JERSEY BOYS runs in Dayton from January 17 through February 5 at the Schuster Center in downtown Dayton. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ticketcenterstage.com or by calling 937-228-3630.
Reach DCP theatre critic Brian P. Sharp at Theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com.