The production, which runs through July 21, marks the return of the full-blown Broadway musical to the AyCee casino universe
Let’s start this meditation on Hard Rock Atlantic City’s presentation of Jersey Boys by offering kudos to the Rock for reviving a form of gaming hall show biz unseen in AC since Tropicana Atlantic City brought the likes of Rent and Cats to its theater well over a decade ago: the full-production Broadway musical.
If the town is to compete in the high-stakes game of East Coast casino entertainment, it will require more than classic rockers and slick discos. And as truck-and-bus versions of hit musicals continually cross-cross the Lower 48 selling tickets by the zillions, it only makes sense for the local gaming industry to get in on the action.
And for Atlantic City and its primary feeder market, what better property is there than Jersey Boys, the quintessentially Garden State tale of North Jersey-born Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, one of the few made-in-America acts that not only survived the pop culture tsunami that was The Beatles-led “British Invasion,” but actually thrived during that brief-but-Earth-shaking period.
That Valli and the group were cut from the same cloth as so many Atlantic City visitors (a fact confirmed by the appreciative applause that greeted the line, spoken by Corey Greenan as group co-founder Tommy DeVito at the very top of the show: “We put Jersey on the map!”) makes the four-Tony-Awards-winning musical an absolute slam dunk.
Add to that the many smash hits of Valli and company comprised a big chunk of the soundtrack of the lives of a significant number of Hard Rock customers, and you have a program the screams (or four-part harmonizes) “Can’t miss.”
Fortunately, this presentation, which is a warmup for a national tour that kicks off in earnest in October, delivers the crowd-pleasing goods.
The four principals, led by Johnny Wexler as Valli and including Greenan as guitarist DeVito, Jonathan Cable as bass player Nick Massi and Eric Chambliss as genius composer-keyboardist Bob Gaudio, are uniformly solid and convincing as the young men who were able to transcend the rough-and-tumble (and frequently law-breaking) environs of Belleville, N.J. to become one of the most successful musical acts of all time.
Wexler, logically, does most of the heavy lifting, and does it extremely well, ably conveying the doubts and conflicts that comprised so much of Valli’s life. But Greenan as DeVito—whose petty criminal/mobster wannabe instincts caused much of the group’s real-life drama—is especially on-point.
The staging is effective, if not ornate: Rather than traditional sets and scenery, the setup utilizes a catwalk and video projections (including some archival, black-and-white footage from American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show) to fine effect.
But let’s be honest, the story-despite its you-can’t-make-this-stuff up elements—is not the draw. The show’s reason for existence is the fabulous cannon of indelible hits, including “Dawn,” “Rag Doll,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Sherry Baby” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” is obviously why the Sound Waves theater was all but sold-out Monday evening.
And the four principals don’t disappoint here, either. With Wexler’s falsetto vocals soaring on the wings of the incomparable harmonies perfectly recreated by the other three performers, the Four Seasons’ musical legacy is in good hands (and vocal cords). And that’s the best reason of all to catch Jersey Boys.