Jersey Boys

You know how, when first you read a book, then see the movie, the movie usually seems to fall short? Well.... After seeing the stage productions of "Jersey Boys" many times (Seattle, Tampa, London and New York), this sets me up for a fall. This is a four-person biography with occasional songs which has been drawn from a stage musical. What we do NOT see is the musicality, the theatricality and the immediacy of the stage version. I wanted joyful exuberance.

Bless Clint Eastwood for trying. He attended stage versions of this theatrical biography of "Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons," aka "Jersey Boys," which thrilled the professionals. He selected players from those versions, even though their characters' stories are diluted and stretched out in this 134 minute R-rated (language) ramble. What we see is hardscrabble beginnings, meteoric (ten long years) rise to fame, then the downside, which can best be done by a director who has first-hand experience.

We have:
  • John Lloyd Young ("Jersey Boys" - 2006 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Broadway musical) as Frankie Valle, a young barber trainee who wants out of Jersey. He is bullied and dominated by a "friend," Tommy DeVito, who is forming a musical group.
  • Vincent Piazza ("Boardwalk Empire") as Tommy DeVito, who revels in his creation, changes the course of American musical history...and never lets anyone forget it! In MY opinion, this guy is a cocky, amoral sociopath, and too much screen time is wasted on his youthful crimes.
  • Erich Bergen ("Jersey Boys" Las Vegas cast) as Bob Gaudio, the brilliant songwriter who heard Valli and thought, "I could write for THAT voice!" (His parents wanted him to go to trade school.)
  • Michael Lomenda ("Jersey Boys") as Nick Massi, the "forgotten one" (he's the Ringo of this quartet). He couldn't STAND being DeVito's roommate: "The man is an ANIMAL!"
  • Joseph Russo ("It's Not You, It's Me") is Joe "Joey" Pesci. Yup, THAT Joe Pesci. He introduced Gaudio to Valli.
  • Christopher Walken ("Seven Psychopaths") is Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo, the mobster who hears Frankie sing "My Mother's Eyes" and is a loyal Valli fan from the get go.
  • Mike Doyle (Lots of TV) as producer Bob Crewe, a "theatrical" fellow who helps launch the group; he understands the business side of the music business.
I take serious issue with the music. I hope the copy I saw was at fault, because the balance was waaaay off and the horn section was simply a cacophony which ruined "You're Just Too Good To Be True." Other selections were off balance, badly mixed and too stylized; most songs become stylized after they have been hits for awhile. "Who Wears Short Shorts" was so stylized in the early scenes, I wouldn't have recognized it if I hadn't known it was there. (Bob Gaudio wrote his first hit song when he was 15 years old, but this isn't mentioned here; he was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 1995.)

BTW, I purchased the book "Places Please" by Daniel Robert Sullivan which is based on his torturous journey to play Tommy DeVito in the Toronto show. It is a great insider's look at the demands made on performers who desperately want to be cast; it describes the hard work and the meticulous choreography involved in the stage versions of "Jersey Boys."

If you haven't been spoiled by the stage version, I think you'll thoroughly enjoy this interesting story, interspersed with well-known songs that are part of the fabric of our lives. If you've seen and loved the stage version, maybe not so much...
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You'll LOVE this preview:
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