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Oct 29, 2015

Review: Dynamite ‘Jersey Boys’ returns to Peace Center

Greenville News

Paul Hyde, [email protected] 7:31 p.m. EDT October 28, 2015

The national tour of “Jersey Boys” visited the Peace Center only two years ago but its return to Greenville this week is still cause for cheer.

You can’t get too much of this dynamite jukebox musical.

The Tony Award-winning show, which traces the rise and fall and rise again of the pop-rock group The Four Seasons, would qualify as top-notch entertainment on the strength of the infectious, head-bopping music alone.

But the story, by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, is engrossing as well.

Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi — the Four Seasons — lived fairly dramatic lives.

“Jersey Boys,” which continues at the Peace Center through Sunday, shows how these blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop sensations of all time.

It’s a warts-and-all tale that involves band infighting, marital troubles and tragedy, run-ins with the law and life-threatening associations with the Mafia.

The story begins, pleasingly enough, in the early 1960s with the four young men creating a band and trying on different styles and different names, notably the Four Lovers, as they search for their place in pop music.

When they find it, the show catches fire.

In quick succession, we get “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “December, 1963” (“Oh, What a Night”) and other irresistible Four Seasons tunes.

The actors playing the Four Seasons deliver these songs with full-throated gusto. Their harmonies are terrific.

Aaron De Jesus, excellent as Frankie, unleashes a mighty falsetto but also sensitively caresses such pop classics as “My Eyes Adored You” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

The others offer equally vivid characterizations. Matthew Dailey plays the hot-headed Tommy. Keith Hines is the droll, moody Nick. Drew Seeley is the affable, even-keeled Bob, the genius songwriter of the group.

A dozen other superb actors serve as the men and women swirling in the orbit of the Four Seasons.

Jaycie Dotin, Leslie Rochette and Lauren Tartaglia, playing multiple roles, are particularly appealing. The three share a sparkling moment in the spotlight as the Angels, singing “My Boyfriend’s Back.”

Des McAnuff’s direction is sharp, vigorous and fast-paced. Broadway veteran Sergio Trujillo choreographed the snappy but unpretentious dances.

Klara Zieglerova’s industrial set serves as a reminder of the boys’ working-class backgrounds. Michael Clark’s digital images of pop art help to lighten a gritty story. In another creative touch, onstage cameras occasionally project scenes of the Four Seasons on a black-and-white screen — as if the group is appearing on American Bandstand or the Ed Sullivan Show.

Theatergoers should note: The show includes strong language throughout. It’s for mature audiences only.

For tickets to this crowd-pleasing production of “Jersey Boys,” call the Peace Center at 864-467-3000 or see the website www.peacecenter.org.

For the latest in local arts news and reviews, follow Paul Hyde on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.