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Column: Bringing Jersey to Iowa

Published: Thursday, March 16, 2017 9:51 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 16, 2017 10:10 a.m. CDT

“Oh, what a night” at the Des Moines Civic Center. I was among the many excited theatre goers who filed in to see opening night of “Jersey Boys” Tuesday night.

The show told the story of the musical group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who enjoyed their success primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. With hits like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man,” it is impossible not the enjoy the story unfolding in front of you.

Beside Valli, the original members of the group were Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. Like most musical groups, they had their fair share of problems off stage while enjoying success on stage. The stage show does a great job of portraying the highs and lows of the group, making you believe you are watching history in motion right before your eyes.

The show would be impossible without a strong lead in the role of Frankie, and Aaron De Jesus did more than just his job. He became the man on stage. Valli was, and still is, known for hitting the highest notes, and De Jesus was “spot on” throughout the whole show. It’s hard not to notice how short De Jesus was on stage, but his big voice made that minor detail disappear.

I have to admit I am partial to Valli’s solo hit “Can’t Take My Eyes off You.” It was my favorite song in the show, helped along by the story that shaped it. It was a song that almost never happened, but it’s hard to imagine the musical world without it.

The show was structured as sort of a flashback, but the way it was accomplished was through different narrations about what the group was going through at the time. Each of the original Four Seasons had their part of the story to tell, kicking off with Tommy DeVito who was the founder of the group. The role was as important as Frankie, and Matthew Dailey captured the audience from his first moments on stage. It was an interesting way to tell the story. The group went through many phases, names and band members before finding the sound that would make them famous.

Bob Gaudio, played by Cory Jeacoma, was arguably the reason for the group’s success. He was the last to join but wrote the band’s memorable hits. Jeacoma played him perfectly starting out as a naive kid and turned into the confident musician.

The final Four Season was Nick Massi, played by Keith Hines. He was the bass player of the group and was often overlooked or taken for granted. Hines did a wonderful job with the monotone voice of Massi and gave the correct amount of dry humor the role deserved.

Tommy started it off, but Frankie finished it out, which makes sense because he was the one with the group the longest. The Four Seasons made great music together, but sooner or later egos and bad decisions were bound to get the better of them.

The stage show was the complete package. The set pieces in particular were intriguing to me. “Jersey Boys” was another show that used a video screen to add to the backdrops. I thought the best use for it was when they were performing on “American Bandstand” and other televised variety shows. The video screen was used to make it look as though they were on TV. I loved it.

A special part of this show for me was to be able to take my fiance, Tim, to his first stage musical. It was one thing I’ve been wanting to share with him, and I’m glad he got to see such a wonderful show for his first time at the theatre.

“Jersey Boys” will be at the Civic Center through Sunday. Grab a friend or a significant other and check it out.

Contact Pam Rodgers at prodgers@newtondailynews.com

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