“She-eh-eh-eh-ry, bay-ay-by, Sherry, Baby.” The ear-piercing, spine-tingling falsetto of Frankie Valli fills The Buell Theatre, and you’d swear you’re not in Denver anymore. The Tony Award-winning “Jersey Boys” opened on Dec. 11, and it’s transporting audiences not only back in time, but to a completely different world.
“I remember watching them on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in the early ‘60s,” says Gary Toole, an Evergreen resident who was 16 when he first saw the Four Seasons on television. “Frankie Valli’s voice was so unique. But they were just four clean-cut kids that we heard on the radio. I had no idea what a colorful past they had.”
“Colorful past” is the perfect way to describe that rags-to-riches story of the Four Seasons. Many fans who grew up with favorites like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Bye Bye Baby,” had no idea that the boys were hard-talking, street-smart kids from the blue-collar neighborhoods of New Jersey.
Bob Gaudio, the keyboard player and the writer who penned the band’s 40 best-selling singles between 1962 and 1969, recognized that the band’s fame had an anonymous element to it.
“We weren’t glamour boys. We weren’t the Beatles. We weren’t the Beach Boys. We weren’t anybody but people who made hit records,” said Gaudio. Listeners knew the songs, but very few know about the boys behind the belting.
“Jersey Boys” was written to tell the real story of the 20-somethings responsible for the doo-wop tunes and the hit records. The show is aptly divided into four seasons; winter, spring, summer and fall are indicated by Lichtenstein-like comic strips on large screens above the stage. Each season is narrated by a different band member. Frankie, Tommy, Nick and Bob each take the audience on their a fast-paced version of the joyride down the Jersey Turnpike.
We meet the band in their formative years as The Variatones and The Four Lovers. Bandleader Tommy DeVito recruits the kid with the golden voice, Francis Castelluccio. Castelluccio renames himself Frankie Valli, and the magic begins.
Forty minutes into the show, a buzz passed through the Buell. Toes had been tapping, but when vocal powerhouse Joseph Leo Bwarie (playing Frankie Valli) belted out the first strains of “Sherry,” the tapping turned to fidgeting. The fidgeting soon became dancing in the seats.
At intermission, a man two rows back jumps up. “I feel like we should be up dancing,” he says. “I guess it only takes one of us to get everybody started.” And sure enough, by the end of Act Two, he and many others are on their feet reliving the glory days and “Walk(in’) Like a Man.”
The show, although dripping with nostalgia for the Boomer generation, appeals to a range of ages. The Four Seasons discography has been remade and performed for more than 40 years, so there’s sure to be something that everyone recognizes. The actors are easy on the eyes as well as the ears. And the story is universal — four hometown boys getting their shot at the big time and, for better or worse, riding that wave of success together.
If you go …
Presented by Denver Center Attractions
Dec. 11 through Jan. 3, 2009 in the the Buell Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Tuesdays through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m.; matinees: at 2 p.m.
Tickets start at $45. For tickets, call 303-893-4100 or visit www.denvercenter.org.