The new `Jersey’ boys

Who knew we were all so hungry for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons?

Last December, when the national tour of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys opened at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre, audiences whooped, hollered and screamed through the musical retelling of how Valli and his Seasons went from New Jersey criminals and nogoodniks to international fame and fortune.

The show kept getting extended and extended, and now it looks like Jersey Boys will be here at least through Sept. 30.

But last month, the cast that opened the tour in San Francisco headed to the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, where Jersey Boys has reportedly amassed the largest advance sale in that theater’s history. Performances begin May 25 in L.A., and the run has already been extended through August.

Next stop is Chicago, and that run has already been extended before anyone has even seen the show.

And the Valli hysteria continues.

On June 5, Rhino Records releases a three-CD box set of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons songs complete with a DVD of rare live performances.

In Livermore, the Wente Vineyards’ annual summer concert series always features a wide range of acts, but you’ll never guess the first show to sell out for the upcoming season: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Aug. 30.

Why are Valli and his Jersey boys suddenly so hip, hot and happening?

The answer is simple: Jersey Boys is 2[1/2] hours of pure promotion.

And I mean that in the best possible sense. Even people who don’t know their Valli from their Gaudio walk out of the theater feeling like they’ve just shared a significant life event with the guys who sang “Walk Like a Man” and “Sherry,” among many others.

The show is so ingeniously constructed by book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and so slickly directed by Des McAnuff that it manages to feel like pure entertainment and real life at the same time.

Jersey Boys is a vehicle that can pretty much drive itself, which is to say the individual talents of the actors — though important, of course — are only part of this show’s revved-up, finely tuned motor.

On a second viewing, the musical holds up remarkably well. The first time through, the experience is dazzling and a little overwhelming. The second time, you begin to see how all the pieces fit together, and it’s mightily impressive.

This is so much more than a collection of Four Seasons hits strung together. There’s absolutely no sense of “moldy oldie goldie” nostalgia here.

The new cast delivers on all counts, so there’s no shortage of sturdy vocals, suave moves and high-energy performing.

Jarrod Spector as Valli is incredibly nuanced, and his vocals are stellar. It’s no surprise that he’s ahead of his cast mates in terms of delivering a full-bodied, charismatic performance: He has been performing the role of Valli twice a week (at matinees mostly) since the show opened in December.

Steve Gouveia, who plays Four Season Nick Massi, also has a leg up. He comes from the Broadway production and is, well, seasoned.

Drew Gehling as Bob Gaudio and Jeremy Kushnier as Tommy DeVito are both terrific. Musically they’re top-notch, and dramatically they’re still plumbing the depths.

I first saw Jersey Boys on opening night last December, and the atmosphere in the Curran was, to say the least, super-charged. The real-life Valli, Gaudio and DeVito were in the audience, and the screaming and yelling throughout the show was astonishing.

It was interesting to see the musical earlier this week with a normal audience. Things have calmed down, though the atmosphere is still charged, especially by the middle of Act 1. Adults — many in the senior category — scream and shout like crazed teenagers, which is hardly your normal theater behavior (except maybe for certain performances of Mamma Mia!).

The audience just can’t get enough.

The final song of the evening asks the question: “Who loves you, pretty baby?”

When it comes to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the answer is, apparently, everybody.

For information on Jersey Boys, visit

New `Jersey’ cast

Blog reader Jersey Boys Front Row-er writes with evidence of some excellent detective work being done by Jersey Boys fans to find out who will be taking over in the San Francisco production.

Read all about it here.

Among the actors rumored to be taking over are: Jarrod Spector (the San Francisco understudy who performs twice a week and is said to be fantastic) as Frankie Valli, Steve Gouveia (who understudied the part on Broadway) as Nick Massi, Jeremy Kushnier (Footloose, Rent on Broadway) as Tommy Devito and Andrew Gehling as Bob Gaudio.