“Jersey Boys”, the musical, has been playing on Broadway and around the world for over 9 years. Within the past two years it has played in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale to sell out crowds and today it has come out as a musical directed by Clint Eastward who is known as an actor, a man with a musical ear and has had fame as a director. If you can make it through the first hour or, even better, skip the first hour you will be rewarded with the second hour. Where the Broadway musical was a musical first, featuring the songs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, in the film the music doesn’t take the spotlight until the credits. Up to that point we are shown bits and pieces of songs, their TV appearances, a couple of songs as the background for scenes.
The story is of a group of guys (or in the case of the Supremes and other female groups) from the 50s and 60s who come from the neighborhood, have 'overnight' success after paying their dues and then fall apart going their own way and one steps out into the spotlight having fame as a soloist. Tommy is the one who gets the group together, gambles, shorts the IRS, gets himself, and the rest of the group involved with the mob and though they never discuss it he breaks one of the three New Jersey 'rules', by hitting on Frankie's girlfriend.
We follow the Four Seasons with each member of the group, taking all the credit, telling you how they were responsible for their huge success of the act and, by combining, all the stories the audience gets a look behind the scenes of four guys from Jersey, their beginning and end.
Frankie Valli is played by John Lloyd Young, who starred in the role and won a Tony for his performance, does a good job in the singing department but doesn’t have the gravitas that the role needs on film. It could also be that Mr. Valli as an associate producer of the movie may have influenced the writers, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who also wrote the Broadway show, to be ‘too good to be true’. Bob Gaudio, also an associate producer, played by Erich Bergen, and who wrote many of the hits for both the 4 Seasons and Valli and a solo performer, is the only one not born in the ‘hood and, it seems, the only virgin in the group!
While the film seems to focus on Valli, more than the other guys, it is Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito, who makes the biggest impact. Michael Lomenda as Nick Massi, who played the role on tour in Fort Lauderdale, has one telling scene that he puts over with feeling.
There are 3 other major roles one being Christopher Walken as a ‘Godfather’ type, who surprisingly is disappointing, Joseph Russo as real life Joe Pesci who does a good job and an outstanding Mike Doyle as gay record producer Bob Crewe who sends the boys on their path to stardom. The actresses are delegated to roles as wives, girlfriends and/or daughters, none really given the scenes to make them an important part of the film.
The film takes us from the beginning of the group until they are inducted to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and finally it becomes an all out musical.
“Jersey Boys” is a film for fans of Frankie Valli, The 4 Seasons and do-wop music who should make for a good return on the production.