Look! You can see Jersey Boys from The Mountaintop

Jersey Boys review 1
The finale of Jersey Boys features a full-cast performance headed by the Four Seasons played by (from left) Miles Jacoby, Nick Cosgrove, John Gardiner and Michael Lomenda. The Tony Award-winning musical runs at the Curran Theatre through April 28 as part of the SHN season. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Two reviews in print this week for two wildly different shows. First up is the return of Jersey Boys to the Curran Theatre, where the first national tour of the Tony Award-winning show kicked off in 2006.

My review is for the San Francisco Chronicle, and here’s a sample:

The structure of the biographical musical, created by book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice along with director Des McAnuff, is what makes the difference between a ferociously fun musical theater blast with emotional heft and a show that easily could have been a run-of-the-mill drama depicting hardscrabble beginnings, raging success and the dark side of fame.
Who really cared about Valli and the Four Seasons before “Jersey Boys” stormed Broadway in 2005 and kicked off its national tour a year later at the Curran? Their songs were fun, but their petty-crime origins in Jersey, their struggle to find a group identity and then their incredible string of pop hits in the ’60s were all largely forgotten.
Then Brickman, Elice and McAnuff devised a way to make everybody care.

Read the full review here.

On last thing. My original review had a final paragraph that got lopped off. The nice thing about having my own website is that I can lop it right back on:

Maybe the best thing of all is that the show itself, now the final chapter in the Four Seasons legacy, is the real happy ending musical theater audiences crave.

Mountaintop 1

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Adrian Roberts) laughs with Lorraine Motel maid Camae (Simone Missick) in Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, a TheatreWorks production at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Photo by Mark Kitaoka

Heading south, TheatreWorks presents the local premiere of Katori Hall’s award-winning drama The Mountaintop, a fantasia on the last night in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The production, at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, is top notch and features two strong performances. The script, ultimately, is flawed, but the intent is noble.

Here’s a bit of the review:

The Martin Luther King Jr. we meet in Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” isn’t orating magnificently on a theme of civil rights for all. Rather, he’s hollering after someone about a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes. Once alone in his Lorraine Motel room in Memphis, Hall’s King is further deconstructed as just an ordinary man. He takes his shoes off and his feet stink — he calls it “marching feet.” Then we hear him going to the bathroom just off stage (he washes his hands after).

Thus begins the demystification process of Hall’s play, an award-winner in London three years ago and a 2011 New York star vehicle for Samuel L. Jackson (making his Broadway debut) and Angela Bassett. Now Hall’s piece of re-imagined history is spreading out across the land.

In its local premiere at the Lucie Stern Theatre courtesy of TheatreWorks, “The Mountaintop” appears to be part of a campaign to pull the Rev. King off his pedestal. The play roots around in his humanity a bit, then returns him to the pantheon of great Americans with a renewed sense of appreciation and respect for what this man, who was mortal after all, was able to accomplish.

Read the full review here.

Bergen goes from Jersey boy to bawdy balladeer

Erich Bergen 2

Erich Bergen became a man in San Francisco. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but when the performer was cast as Bob Gaudio in the touring production of Jersey Boys, he was all of 20 years old. The tour ended up sitting down at the Curran Theatre for nine months in 2007, and Bergen, a native of New York City, celebrated his 21st birthday in the City by the Bay.

He’ll be back in San Francisco for an all-too-brief one-night stand at the Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko on Monday, Feb. 7. His show is affectionately subtitled: “An evening of music, inappropriate laughs and awkward pauses.”

“That city holds a lot of crazy memories,” Bergen says on the phone from Los Angeles, his home since late 2009. “When I was cast, I had never really done New York as an adult actor. I quit college – or ‘left the company’ as I like to say – and was sent out on the road into that crazy Jersey Boys land. Suddenly it was this world you dream of with fans outside the stage door. Then while I was here I was in a relationship and all these first-time grown-up things were happening.”

After that Jersey swirl, Bergen’s first time back in San Francisco was last fall when he was part of a benefit for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation. “You smell certain things, and it all starts coming back,” Bergen says.

Who knows what he’ll smell when he makes his Rrazz Room debut with a show that he debuted last fall at the Magic Castle. Much of the material comes from his debut CD, “The Vegas Sessions,” a highly enjoyable collection of Bergen originals as well as some surprising covers and songs that are, well, drrrrrrty.

The original idea behind the CD was that it would be a live recording of a concert he gave at the (now-closed) Liberace Museum in Las Vegas while he was in the cast of Jersey Boys there. But on the day he was supposed to go into the recording studio to start cleaning up the live recording, Bergen’s idol, Michael Jackson, died.

“That threw my life into total change,” Bergen says. Rather than work on his CD, Bergen began spending his free time mobilizing all the talent in Las Vegas to perform at a Jackson tribute concert – a mammoth undertaking that eventually won the support of the Jackson estate.

“That show remains the most important work I’ve done,” Bergen says. “I got Las Vegas to stop for a day and pay tribute to Michael. To this day, I can’t believe it happened. I joke that I’m still catching up on sleep. I’ve never worked so hard in my life. Michael was my hero. He meant everything to me, so it was important to me that we honor him in a really respectable way.”

Erich Bergen 3The event ultimately raised more than $100,000 for music education in Nevada public schools.

“Without music education and Michael Jackson, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Bergen says.

When Bergen’s run in Jersey Boys came to an end – he says it was a surprise to him when it did – he returned to New York and listened again to the Liberace tapes.

“That wasn’t me anymore,” he says. “So I figured I’d make a CD that included some of the serious songs I’ve written as well as songs that show off my skanky whore side.”

On the serious side is the song “I Hope You Know,” a beautiful, earnest ballad paying tribute to a true love. Bergen wrote the song in a night, and it’s the song on the album that people tend to gravitate to and the song that will likely go on to have a long life – especially at weddings.

On the dirty side is “Blow Me a Kiss,” a ditty that includes phrases such as “blow me,” “suck me,” “eat me” and “on your knees” combined with comic pauses and old-fashioned lyrics that actually put dirty minds shame. And all you need to know about Bergen’s cover of the Britney Spears tune “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” (see below) is that he introduces it saying, “This song says a lot about me.”

Bergen was supposed to celebrate the release of his CD last fall with a gig at the Rrazz Room, but he was cast in Venice, a new rock/hip-hop musical version of Othello at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in L.A. No, Bergen did not rap in the show, but he says the experience was extraordinary – especially the student matinees. “They were so into it, and that was inspiring,” Bergen says. “It really made me think we’re screwing up the theater charging $100 a ticket. These are the people who need to see new work, and they can’t afford it.”

Now Bergen is back on the performing circuit, amid other projects. He’s also writing music, pitching movie ideas alongside collaborators and keeping quite busy.

At the Rrazz Room, audiences can expect the handsome crooner to deliver an old-fashioned floor show. Bergen says this is not cabaret.

“When I think of cabaret, I think of a housewife in shoulder pads singing ‘Marry Me a Little.’ That’s not what I do,” he says. “I try to give them a great show that’s not about me. I don’t tell stories of my life on the road. I’m really there to share some amazing songs. I take that approach because I’m not the best interpreter of a song, but I’m a really good entertainer. I’m great at giving the audience a good time. Oftentimes, by the end of the show, the audience is having such a good time, it’s like I need to throw a party afterward.”

Erich Bergen in concert, an evening of music, inappropriate laughs and awkward pauses, is at 8pm, Monday, Feb. 7 at the Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco. Tickets are $20 or $40 for the VIP package (signed CD, meet and greet, champagne). Call 800-380-3095 or visit www.therrazzroom.com for information.

Here’s Bergen singing Britney Spears’ “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.”

Click here for more Erich Bergen videos.

Visit www.erichbergen.com

Shameless plugs: `Jersey’ Vegas, SF Int’l Arts Fest

The boys of Jersey Boys in Las Vegas: from left: Erich Bergen, Rick Faugno, Jeremy Kushnier and Jeff Leibow in the production at the Palazzo. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Since leaving my illustrious career as a newspaper theater critic/editor in March, I’ve been doing some freelancing. Now you, gentle reader, get to enjoy the fruits of my labors.

In today’s Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times travel section you’ll find a story I did for them about the Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys at the Palazzo Hotel. In true Bay Area News Group fashion, the first part of the story is missing on the Web. Here’s the link anyway: www.insidebayarea.com/travel/ci_9299376. At the bottom of the story is my list of Top 5 best bets for the Las Vegas theatergoer.

And here’s what’s missing from the top of the story:

Oh, what a night! `Jersey Boys’ hits Vegas’ plush Palazzo
By Chad Jones
Every time you think you know Las Vegas, the city spins the dice in another direction.
First it’s a curious desert getaway. Then it’s the ring-a-ding Rat Pack capital of the world. Then it’s cheap and sleazy. Next thing you know it’s an adult theme park full of swanky hotels, hip clubs and hot restaurants.
Now it’s all of the above plus world-class shopping, aging ’70s superstars and Broadway musicals.
There’s just no place like Vegas (mercifully), and the town just keeps evolving.
The newest resort-casino on the strip is the 50-story Palazzo, which officially opened last January, a sister hotel to the Venetian next door, and its adjunct tower, Venezia. All together, this trio of resorts boasts 7,066 rooms, all suites, making it one of the world’s biggest resorts.
The Palazzo is aiming to be the next level of Vegas accommodation, and with the opening of “Jersey Boys,” the hit musical, earlier this month in the Palazzo’s theater, the hotel is positioning itself as a destination for the discerning Vegas visitor.
Even compared to the Venetian, with its heavy-duty Italian-themed canal boat ride and slavishly re-created St. Mark’s Square at the center of its Grand Canal Shoppes mall, the Palazzo is different.


For Theatre Bay Area magazine, I wrote a feature on the San Francisco International Arts Festival (continuing through June 8). Read it here in its entirety, nothing missing (thanks, TBA!): www.theatrebayarea.org/mag/article.jsp?thispage=mag.jsp&id=405

And, as ever, thank you for reading. — Chad

Live from Las Vegas: `Jersey Boys’ opening night bash

What a party! You expect big things in Las Vegas, and that’s what you get.

The Palazzo put on quite a show before and after the show as Jersey Boys officially opened on May 3, becoming the first show at the Palazzo hotel, which officially opened last January.

The requisite red carpet arrivals saw the surviving Four Seasons — Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio and Tommy DeVito, along with producer Bob Crewe — as well as a few celebrities, including John Cleese, Michael Urie (of “Ugly Betty” fame) and Willie Garson (of “Sex and the City” fame) as well as some Vegas celebs: Rita Rudner, Wayne Brady and John O’Hurley (in the soon-to-close Spamalot).

The most moving moment of the evening was when the real Four Seasons went on stage at the curtain call to take a bow with their musical theater counterparts. Read about that and see a photo in my review below.

The opening-night party, held in one of the Palazzo/Venetian airplane hangar-like ballrooms, was a scene. Classic ’60s cars, complete with go-go dancers, adorned the corners of the room where the food tables were, and in the center of the room, like an air traffic control tower, also complete with go-go dancers, was the DJ.

Opening night also happened to be Frankie Valli’s 74th birthday, so when the onstage Four Seasons — Erich Bergen, Rick Faugno, Jeremy Kushnier and Jeff Leibow — arrived at the party, they announced Valli’s birthday then sang a beautiful four-part harmony version of “Happy Birthday to You.” After the stage was cleared, the back “wall” of the ballroom came swooshing down to reveal a dance floor and a stage adorned with — you guessed it! — go-go dancers grooving to a ’60s beat.

Here are some photos of Valli’s birthday tribute:

At the party I ran into Jeff Leibow (who plays Nick Massi) and his lovely wife, Melody, both formerly residents of East Palo Alto and now Las Vegans. They looked fantastic:

I also ran into Joyce Chittick, who plays multiple roles, including Frankie’s wife. Her real-life love is Rick Faugno, who happens to play Frankie. I’ve known Joyce since she was in high school (my mother was her high school principal at Sparks High School), when she performed in a top-notch performance choir called Skyfire. She and Rick were beaming, and rightfully so. They’re in a hit show, and they’re both superb in it.

Live from Las Vegas! `Jersey Boys’

Opened May 3 at the Palazzo Las Vegas

OK, so technically we’re not “live” in Las Vegas anymore (6:05 a.m. flight from LV to SFO – ouch). But given that it feels like I’m still at the opening-night party of Jersey Boys at the Venetian (next door to the Palazzo, where the show actually resides), I feel as live as is humanly possible.

There’s only good news for fans of Jersey Boys. The show has not been Vegas-ized. The creative team, headed by director Des McAnuff has been creative about making cuts and getting the show down to a brisk 2 hours and 10 minutes. The biggest cut is in the intermission, which here is called a “pause.” At the end of Act 1, after the reprise of “Walk Like a Man,” the audience is instructed via a projection that they have eight minutes do with what they please. Now, eight minutes is not a lot of time to run to the restroom or the bar (especially for slower-moving folks), so the wise people simply stand up, chat and watch the projections on the giant video screens (projections of a cross-country tour circa 1964, including footage of a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge and a glimpse of the Transamerica Pyramid-less San Francisco skyline).

Co-writers Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman have artfully trimmed their book here and there, but only purists (and there are plenty of them out there!) will notice. All the songs are there, albeit some of them have also been shortened (not detrimentally and none of the big Four Seasons numbers are noticeably shorter).

Act 1 does feel rushed at times, though audiences will likely appreciate getting through the early stages of the Four Seasons’ development so they can get to the meaty hits such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “December 1963 (Oh What a Night),” “My Eyes Adored You” and “Dawn (Go Away).” Act 2 feels more like it did at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco.

Speaking of the Curran, I must say the theater at the Palazzo, which seats 1,700, is quite nice, if unadorned. The sound system, which is what really counts, is phenomenal and is a great improvement over the Curran’s.

The cast, a blend of the casts we saw in San Francisco (but primarily comprised of the performers we saw last fall), is more than up to the high standards we Bay Area fans are used to. The sad news is that John Altieri, whose primary role is producer Bob Crewe, had to leave the cast for health reasons, and his role is now being played by John Salvatore, who’s terrific.

The Four Seasons have meshed nicely. Rick Faugno, who we first saw in the role of Joe Pesci with the first national tour, has really grown into the central role of Frankie Valli. His voice – already strong – has gotten even better and smoother, and dramatically, he’s spot on, especially in his scenes with Joyce Chittick as Frankie’s wife, Mary. Their “My Eyes Adored You” post-break-up scene packs a wallop.

Erich Bergen, also from the first national tour, has evolved as Bob Gaudio, the musical mastermind (with Crewe) of the Four Seasons sound. Bergen is a charmer and a fine singer. He’s also extremely tall, so to say his talent is giant seems fairly accurate.

Jeremy Kushnier, from the second San Francisco cast (the one that headed to Chicago), makes the somewhat despicable character of Tommy DeVito not only appealing but somewhat understandable. He’s not necessarily a bad guy. He sort of means well and just lets his ego do its dirty work. Kushnier’s performance is incisive, and his section as narrator (each of the Four Seasons takes a turn narrating) crackles with New Jersey wit.

Last but not least is the Bay Area’s own Jeff Leibow as Nick Massi, the “Ringo” of the Four Seasons as he says toward the end. Leibow was in the final San Francisco cast (rumored to be the Vegas cast, which turned out only partly to be true), and though he was strong then, he’s even better now. Nick’s mostly contained emotions register more now, and his explosion – geared mainly toward Tommy – is seismic.

The nine-piece band, headed by Keith Thompson, sounds sharp, and Sergio Trujillo’s choreography is as smooth and sexy as ever.

Now that I’ve seen Jersey Boys five times (which is nothing compared to the real fans), I feel it’s necessary to mention the Jersey Girls every time. The three women in the show play all the women in the show, and they work really hard. The expert Chittick is joined by the multitalented Natalie Bradshaw and Julia Krohn in making sure the men don’t completely take over the show.

(above from left) Real life Jersey Boys meet Las Vegas Jersey Boys during the curtain call on opening night at the Palazzo: John Salvatore and Bob Crewe, Bob Gaudio and Erich Bergen, Frankie Valli and Rick Faugno, Jeremy Kushnier and Tommy DeVito and Jeff Leibow.

As has become the custom for a big opening night, the surviving Seasons show up for the curtain call and hug the actor who played them. The Vegas opening was no different. After the rousing closer of “Who Loves You,” Faugno introduced the surviving guys: Valli, Gaudio and DeVito as well as producer Crewe, who all took the stage. DeVito, who is dramatically banished to Las Vegas in the show, still lives in Sin City, and I had to wonder what it was like for him to sit through this show yet again and hear about what a slime bag crook he is – but now in his hometown. But then again, I have to wonder what it’s like for Valli and Gaudio, too, to relive those moments in their past over and over again. They’re probably inured to it now, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for Valli to have to repeatedly watch his stage self go through the death of his daughter Francine.

But at the curtain call in Vegas, it was all smiles. DeVito seemed as robust as ever, and I was only disappointed that Joe Pesci, who was also in the audience, didn’t get to go on stage and hug the actor (Jonathan Gerard Rodriguez) who played him.

As beautifully and as expertly as this show is put together, and with so many great songs and performances, Jersey Boys is mighty satisfying and sets a new standard for musical theater in Las Vegas.

For information about Jersey Boys at the Palazzo, visit http://www.jerseyboysinfo.com/vegas/.



New York fantasy

I’m not going anywhere at the moment (except Las Vegas for the opening of Jersey Boys later this week — hope to be blogging live if technology cooperates, but if not, check in on Sunday afternoon).

Where I’d most like to go, of course, is New York to visit friends and SEE BROADWAY SHOWS! It’s been about a year since my last trip, and you might say I’m jonesing for the Great White Way. And there’s so much to see at the moment.

Below you’ll find my list of most desirable shows. If you’ve seen any and care to comment, I’d love to hear from you and share your thoughts with other Theater Dogs (you can comment on the blog or e-mail me directly at chiatovich@gmail.com).

August: Osage County
South Pacific
Sunday in the Park with George
A Catered Affair
Passing Strange
In the Heights

It’s amazing that #1 and #3 are golden oldies that have new life on Broadway, and #1 and #4 are both Sondheim-related. I’m dying to see Passing Strange again — it was so good at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. I’d love to see how the show has evolved and how it plays for a Broadway audience. It’s actually thrilling that, in spite of the big-ticket revivals, that four out of seven shows on my list are actually new work.

Stage presents: A theater gift guide

So many fine gift ideas, so little space. Let’s get started with some great theater books.

In the realm of books about theater, this year’s standout comes from San Mateo native Thomas Schumacher, who also happens to be the president of Disney Theatrical, the producer of such hits as The Lion King and Mary Poppins. Schumacher’s How Does the Show Go On? An Introduction to the Theater (Disney Editions, $19.95) is geared toward the young theatergoer (ages 9 to 12), but it’s a hugely entertaining look at the entire theatrical picture, from the beginning of a show to the most intricate details of daily production.

The Bay Area can’t get enough of the musical Jersey Boys. For the most avid fans, there is, of course, a coffee-table book. Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons (Broadway, $40) contains the show’s libretto, lots of photos and a thorough guide to the real Four Seasons and their Broadway counterparts.

You think you know everything about The Sound of Music? Think again. Author Laurence Maslon has assembled the ultimate look behind the scenes of the world’s most beloved movie musical. The Sound of Music Companion (Fireside, $40) covers every aspect of the show, right up to the British reality TV show that allowed viewers to vote on the actress who wound up playing Maria on London’s West End.

The hottest show on Broadway is the multi-Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening. Fans already have memorized the great cast album, so give them Spring Awakening (Theatre Communications Group, $13.95), the libretto (by Steven Sater) and a new adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s original play by novelist Jonathan Franzen (Faber and Faber, $11.70). Franzen hates the musical, by the way, so it’s interesting to see how the play and the musical diverge.

This was the year of the movie musical — or maybe I should say the good movie musical. If your gift recipient loves musicals, make sure he or she has Hairspray (New Line Home Entertainment, $34.98 for two-disc version, $28.98 for single-disc), the joyous movie version of the Broadway hit; Once (20th Century Fox, $29.99), a fascinating and musically rich love story about an Irish street musician and an interesting woman he meets by chance; Colma: The Musical (Lionsgate, $27.98), a locally grown musical with catchy tunes and a better-than-average cast of characters. The best of the big-ticket DVD items this year is The Noel Coward Collection ($79.98 BBC/Warner), a veritable treasure trove of Cowardly delights. The set contains seven discs and runs some 19 hours (plus another 12 hours of bonus material that includes interviews, radio plays and more). The plays included are Private Lives (with the delectable Penelope Keith), Hay Fever, Design for Living, Present Laughter, A Song at Twilight, Mr. and Mrs. Edgehill and Tonight at 8:30.

This isn’t a CD, but while we’re on the subject of Coward, this year saw the release of a fantastic volume of Coward’s letters: The Letters of Noel Coward (Knopf, $37.50), edited by Barry Day. The beauty is that the book contains letters both from and to Coward, whose beastly wit entertains in every epistle.

The fine folks at PS Classics, the show-minded label that, in addition to turning out excellent original-cast albums, allows musical theater performers the chance to show their vocal stuff, have released some terrific new discs just in time for the holidays.

The best of the bunch is Lauren Kennedy’s Here and Now, a marvelous collection of show music and pop. Album highlight is Andrew Lippa’s “Spread a Little Joy,” followed closely by Jason Robert Brown’s “In This Room” and Adam Guettel‘s “Through the Mountain” (from Floyd Collins). Kennedy’s voice is so vibrant — at times so Streisandian — it’s irresistible.

PS Classics also is offering two more Broadway divas: Tony Award-winner Victoria Clark (Light in the Piazza) with Fifteen Seconds to Love, a solid collection mixing standards (“Right as the Rain,” “I Got Lost in His Arms”) and newer material (Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Red Dress,” Jane Kelly Williams’ “Fifteen Seconds of Grace”); and Andrea Burns (soon to be on Broadway again in In the Heights) with A Deeper Shade of Red, a set that mixes Joni Mitchell (“Chelsea Morning”) with Stephen Sondheim (“What More Do I Need?”) and Melissa Manchester (“Through the Eyes of Grace”) with Kate Bush and Rodgers and Hammerstein (“Man with the Child in His Eyes/Something Wonderful”).

PS Classics’ Songwriter Series with the Library of Congress’ latest offering is a doozy: Jonathan Larson: Jonathan Sings Larson. The composer of Rent, who died tragically the night before his show opened, is heard singing demos and performing live, and the disc paints an incredible portrait of an artist full of talent, humor and ambition. The accompanying DVD features four live performances from Larson’s gig at New York’s Village Gate.

New `Jersey’ boys here for the holidays

The new cast of Jersey Boys at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre includes, from left, Jeff Leibow as Nick Massi, Rick Faugno as Frankie Valli, Andrew Rannells as Bob Gaudio and Bryan McElroy as Tommy DeVito. Photo by Joan Marcus

Third time is definitely a charm for San Francisco and Jersey Boys.

About a year ago, the first national touring company of the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit opened to much fanfare and acclaim at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre. The surviving Four Seasons, whose stories are told in the musical, took bows with the cast on opening night, and the show became one of those rare and treasured “you gotta see this” word-of-mouth sensations.

The demand for Jersey Boys meant that what was intended as a touring company could actually sit down at the Curran for a while. The first cast headed to Los Angeles in May, and the second cast continued through September, then they headed to Chicago.

Now, in what’s being billed as a “special holiday engagement,” Jersey Boys is back at the Curran through December (but will not be here New Year’s Eve, so don’t even think about ushering in 2008 with Frankie, Bob, Tommy and Nick).

This is the third cast we’ve seen here, and though they’ve only been performing for little more than a week, they’re in great shape. Word is that these are the Boys — or some of them anyway — who will be going to Vegas to open the specially tailored theater at the new Palazzo resort. Tickets are being sold for performances beginning April 4. Whether or not Jersey Boys will be truncated or will left intact at 2 1/2 hours remains to be seen.

Frankie Valli is played by Rick Faugno, a familiar face from the first touring cast. He played Joe Pesci (yes, the Academy Award-winning actor who really did play a part in bringing the Four Seasons together — side note: Pesci won the award playing a character named Tommy DeVito, a name that means something to Four Seasons fans), and then he became the alternate Frankie (the lead Frankie only performs six out of eight performances a week, and the alternate usually performs Tuesday nights and Wednesday matinees).

Faugno sounds great, and he’s got some sturdy acting chops. The one thing working against him is that he looks so young. Frankie ages in the play from his late teens to his late 30s, and while Faugno is believable in the younger years, when Frankie is the father of grown children, it’s a stretch. So Faugno has to command with his voice, and he does. His “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” was a little ragged at Friday night’s performance, but he still delivered the goods. He also does some impressive dancing — the splits even — during “Beggin’.”

Faugno has the advantage (and, I would imagine) the pleasure, of working opposite his real-life romantic partner, Joyce Chittick (whom I must admit I’ve admired since she was a member of the Skyfire show choir at Sparks High School in beautiful Sparks, Nevada…go Railroaders!). Chittick plays, among other roles, Mary Valli, Frankie’s first wife, and she is one tough cookie. Her scenes with Faugno are terrific, and their breakup scene, set to “My Eyes Adored You,” is more tender than I’ve seen it before.

Nick Massi, the “Ringo” of the group in his words, is played by local boy Jeff Leibow, and his performance is striking for how different it is from the two we’ve seen here before. This Nick is more thoughtful and more idiosyncratic than his predecessors. He somehow seems more real.

On Friday, Bryan McElroy seemed the most adrift in his role as Tommy DeVito. Like Faugno, he seems young for the role, and he’s really pushing the Jersey tough-guy edge, when Tommy needs a little more charm. But he’s strikingly funny and handsome.

Andrew Rannells as Bob Gaudio, the musical mastermind behind the Seasons’ success, is just plain sweet. He’s got this boyish face and demeanor that make him immediately likeable.

The other hard-working women in the cast are Natalie Bradshaw and Julia Krohn, and they’re fantastic. Along with Chittick, they make the most of their one big number as the Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Back.”

Friday’s performance marked the fifth time I’ve seen Jersey Boys, and honestly, I thought this might be the time when I enjoyed it less or maybe saw the man behind the curtain a little more. But no, I got caught up in the whole thing and once again found myself wishing the “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)” high-energy encore would just keep going and going and going — like Jersey Boys itself. Next stop: London.

Jersey Boys continues through Dec. 30 at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. For information visit www.shnsf.com.

Local `Jersey’ boy

It’s not often that a performer goes from gigs at the Willows Theatre Company in Concord, TheatreWorks in Mountain View and Pleasanton Playhouse in Pleasanton to one of the hottest Broadway musicals in recent memory.

That’s exactly what has happened to Jeff Leibow (above, left), a former Pleasanton resident who now lives with his wife, Melody, in East Palo Alto.

But he won’t be spending much time at home. Leibow is currently onstage at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, where he’s playing Nick Massi, one of the Four Seasons in the hit musical Jersey Boys.

The musical, which ran for nearly a year at the Curran before closing in September, is back for a short run with a new company before heading to Las Vegas.

This is Leibow’s big break. After an exhausting audition process that took him from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to New York, Leibow received word that he got the gig while having lunch with his wife.

“I threw my arms up in the air, like Rocky, and wanted to scream, but we were in a restaurant, and I didn’t want to seem like a crazy man,” Leibow says.

Rehearsals in New York have been intense. The new cast learned the score in two days with one day of review, then immediately started blocking. The company flew to San Francisco last week, and performances began Tuesday.

So far, Leibow says he’s bonding with his fellow Seasons _ Rick Faugno (Frankie Valli), Bryan McElroy (Tommy DeVito) and Andrew Rannells (Bob Gaudio).

“Honestly, I’ve never been in a cast so humble, so easy to work with,” Leibow says. “Usually there’s one or two actors who need to be at the top of he hierarchy, who wave their arms and shout, `I’m the best.’ But this group is so focused on making this show good. They’re so easy to get along with and so incredibly talented. Maybe I’m just in a dream state because this is such a great experience.”

Jersey Boys continues through Dec. 30 at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $30 to $99. Call 415-512-7770 or visit www.ticketmaster.com or www.shnsf.com for information.

`Boys’ are back in town

Yes, it’s true, Jersey Boys only just ended its nine-month run at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre on Sunday, but today it’s official: the show will be back for a “special holiday engagement” Nov. 20 through Dec. 30. If you’re counting, that’s only 48 performances.

The press release from SHN didn’t indicate which theater the show would be at — not the Orpheum because The Color Purple will be there through Dec. 9. Most likely the Boys will be back at the Curran.

Here’s the official word from SHN’s Carole Shorenstein Hays: “The best holiday gift for the Bay Area is Jersey Boys. The show will always have a home at SHN.”

And from the show’s director, Des McAnuff: “Everyone in the creative team of Jersey Boys is in love with San Francisco and we are so thrilled that San Francisco is in love with Jersey Boys. We’re delighted to be able to spend more time with the people of the Bay Area through the holiday season.”

Word on the street is that this will be the Las Vegas company having an out-of-town tryout of sorts before hitting the desert. And the word from the press release is: “The new cast for the holiday engagement will be announced at a later time.”

Tickets are $30-$99 and available at 415-512-7770 or at www.ticketmaster.com or www.shnsf.com.

There’s a terrific behind-the-scenes peek at what goes on backstage during a performance of Jersey Boys on the SHN site. Click here.