Friday, June 20, 2014

Jersey Boys - the movie!

It opened on Broadway in 2005 and then Las Vegas had a exclusive contract to run the show for several years, which kept it from touring the southwest.  The show did finally make it around in 2011 to little fanfare, but since the film release, it seems to be playing stronger houses than ever. I just missed in during its OC run, but I plan to catch it on stage in October when it plays LA.  My point here, I never saw the stage production before seeing the film.  I know the music, I had a vague idea of their background but really, I went into it with modest expectations.

The Four Seasons, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) each tell a portion of their story. Each was supposed to also represent a season in their representation of the story line.  This was not really clear from my point of view and perhaps it is more apparent on stage.  The boys really made sure during those early days to keep their personal history a secret, so as to maintain the squeaky clean image. But like almost every entertainment success story, there was some drama and darkness behind the curtain.

The biggest surprise to me was that Frankie Valli, at least in his younger days, always tried to do what was right. He put as much priority on his family that he could, he backed up his friends and held strong to his Jersey street ethics.  What seems to have been downplayed in the film is the significance of Bob Crewe's lyrical contributions. Bob Gaudio composed the music but the words were Crewe's.

I've seen many of Clint Eastwood's movies. He's a director that focuses on human relationships. There was plenty of attention paid to the interactions of these people: the band, their families and the people that made the Four Seasons who they became. What I would have enjoyed more was some creative cinematography. It did unfortunately seem to suffer from time to time from being a stage adaptation. Most of it was excusable, except... when we flash forward to the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame appearance in 1990. The old age make up in closeups was just too distracting and no believable. It took me out for a moment.

The performances were solid. Not many of us know what the other three guys acted like or sounded like off stage, so it was easy to accept them in their roles. DeVito and Massi were drawn as caricatures mostly, with DeVito being the Jersey tough guy and Massi being the simple minded bass singer. Massi contributed greatly in real life to Valli's performance style and DeVito was the guy who put the group into motion.  All but Piazza played their respective roles on stage at some point. Bergen also has bragging rights to having been fired from the Vegas cast several years back.

The movie is actually very family friendly with no nudity and only some adult language.  It's music you know and a great time in the theater.  Who knew Joe Pesci was so musically influential?