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THEATER

‘Jersey Boys’ brings the music of Frankie Valli to the Toledo stage

  • jersey-boys-red-jackets

    'Jersey Boys,' a musical telling the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, cruises into the Stranahan Theater on Tuesday.

  • Four-seasons-jersey-bosy

    The Four Seasons (with the original members) were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2008, Valli was 80th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Here’s one thing you need to know about the musical Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which cruises into the Stranahan Theater on Tuesday: Audiences don’t always stay in their seats.

“Oh no, they can’t help but wiggle around and get up and dance from time to time,” said Aaron De Jesus, who plays lead singer Frankie Valli in the national tour of the musical, brought here by the Theater League’s Broadway in Toledo series. “It’s a lot of fun being part of a show like this, where the audience is just loving it.”

At a show with pop hits like “Sherry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “Rag Doll,” and about 30 other songs, who could just sit there quietly?

Jersey Boys follows the ups and downs in the 1960s and ’70s for Valli, the lead singer known for his compelling falsetto, and the rest of the

Four Seasons, four blue-collar guys from rough New Jersey streets. The group included Tommy DeVito (played here by Matthew Dailey), Bob Gaudio (played by Cory Jeacoma), and Nick Massi (portrayed by Keith Hines). Valli also had a successful solo career that included the title song to the movie Grease in 1978. He continues to tour, appearing at the Stranahan last year.

The Four Seasons (with the original members) were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2008, Valli was 80th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Jersey Boys 

WHERE: Stranahan Theatre, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd., Toledo

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: $38, $43, $88, and $98 at 419-381-8851, broadwayintoledo.com, or the Stranahan box office, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m.

Parental guidance is suggested for "Jersey Boys." The show contains smoke, gunshot sounds, strobe lights, drug references, sexual situations, and profane language.

The musical tells the story of the four singers and how they came together as a group, rose to stardom, and eventually went their separate ways. The actors portraying the singers take turns narrating different “seasons” of the story, De Jesus said in a phone interview. 

Jersey Boys won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical, the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, and the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The songs featured in Jersey Boys were written by Gaudio with lyrics by Bob Crewe. The book is by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and Des McAnuff is the director.

Jersey Boys, which opened on Broadway in 2005, is the 12th longest-running show in Broadway history, according to Playbill.

De Jesus has met Valli several times. “He comes to see the show from time to time,” the actor said, “and he’s seen me play him once, which was a neat experience — a little bit nerve-racking, but exciting.”

What did Valli think?

“He complimented me and said I did a great job,” said De Jesus, who has been playing Valli on the tour for about a year and a half and appeared in the Joe Pesci role in the Las Vegas Jersey Boys for about three and a half years, understudying the Valli role.

“When it comes to singing, Frankie and I have a similar tone quality to our voices, and so it’s not easy, but it’s easier for me to replicate his sound, the style he sang.” 

 In Jersey Boys he is “not trying to do a carbon copy [of Valli], or an impersonation,” adding that as an actor he brings his personality to the role.

He grew up singing a lot in school and church and got into theater in junior high and high school. “I’ve been performing and singing, especially singing, as long as I could make noise,” De Jesus said.

In the musical “there are a couple of songs I really enjoy singing: ‘Dawn’ at the end of Act 1, and ‘Working My Way’ later in the show, when things are going well for Frankie and the group.”

De Jesus thinks the group’s unique sound accounts for its enduring appeal. “I also think there’s a certain simplicity to the songwriting that keeps it sounding great,” he said. “And the themes are universal.”

Audiences are a “fantastic mix of people who grew up with these songs, their kids, and their kid’s kids.” And the songs are still around, he said. “I was watching TV a few months ago and an ice cream commercial came on, and what was the song playing behind the ice cream? ‘You’re just too good to be true ... can’t take my eyes off you ...’ Here’s a song from decades ago, and in 2016 its being used in an ice cream commercial.

“People know these songs ... whether or not you realize it, you know these songs,” De Jesus said.

Contact Sue Brickey at: sbrickey@theblade.com.

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