Friday, January 05, 2007
A bunch of nights at the theater
There's a fab article about the Cerrito Theater, blogged about here on Jan. 1, in today's Chronicle.

Last night, Joe & I went to see "Jersey Boys" at the Curran Theater in San Francisco. When the show was announced, Joe (a Jersey boy himself, since he was born in the Garden State) said he wanted to see it; I said I did not, since I don't like '50s music. Joe responded that technically, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons constitute '60s music (their first #1, "Sherry," was a hit in 1962). I've always thought of them as being more akin to artists like the Platters or other "number" groups like the Five Satins or the Four Freshmen than '60s bands like the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks. Nevertheless, the musical was getting rapturous reviews so I bought the tickets as a Christmas gift.

It turns out that "Jersey Boys" is such a great show that it doesn't really matter how attached you are to their pop hits. The reason this musical has succeeded where other so-called "jukebox musicals" based on the songs of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and the Beach Boys failed is that "Jersey Boys" puts the story first. It's exceedingly well-written (by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) and not just an excuse to throw a lot of hit songs at the audience.

The play is divided into four parts, or "seasons," with each section narrated by a different member of the group. This enables us to get to know each guy, and hear the story from his perspective. There's Tommy, the trouble magnet whose debts get the band mixed up with the mob; Bob, the shy guy and genius songwriter whose talent for writing hits takes them from a Jersey streetcorner to #1 on the charts; Nick, who feels overshadowed by the other members; and finally Frankie, the Italian kid with an angelic voice.

This may be a touring production, but the cast, which also includes several men and women who play numerous roles, is absolutely Broadway quality; at times, the audience's wild cheering made you forget that these guys are just pretending to be in a famous group. Christopher Kale Jones is dynamic as Valli, a role that must be exceptionally difficult to cast (how many people can convincingly sing in that famous falsetto?).

Anyway, now that 2006 is behind us, here are the best five plays I saw last year. I saw quite a few, but even so, it's always a bit of a bummer to read the critics' year-end recaps and realize all the stuff I missed out on.

1. "The Little Foxes," ACT: The night I saw this, the last thing I wanted to do was go to the theater, and the fact that it won me over so completely makes it all the more impressive.

2. "Love is a Dream House in Lorin," Shotgun Players: Shotgun had such a successful season that it's hard to pick which one of their plays was the best, but I have to give them credit for creating and mounting this audaciously ambitious production and pulling it off so wonderfully.

3. "The Glass Menagerie", Berkeley Rep: It's hard to believe I had never seen this oft-produced play before, but for my first experience with it, I'm glad I was able to witness Rita Moreno's performance as Amanda.

4. "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," Post Street Theater: I saw it twice, and it was even better the second time. Just ridiculously entertaining and funny.

5. "LOVE," Cirque du Soleil, The Mirage, Las Vegas: You could see an entire season's worth of plays at the Shotgun for what you pay for one ticket to "LOVE," but what glorious excess it is. A jaw-dropper.
posted by 125records @ 2:21 PM  
  • At 5:20 PM, Blogger yellojkt said…

    My wife dragged me to Jersey Boys last time we were in New York, and I really liked it for all the reasons you mentioned. I think they play up Frankie Valli's role in musical history a little, but some hyperbole is par for the course.

    The Broadway staging is very spartan, so as long as you have strong performers in the show, you aren't missing much.

  • At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I hate musicals and I hate the word "awesome"...BUT THIS WAS AN AWESOME MUSICAL! You know when you see those phony commercials with people coming out of the theater saying...they were dancing in the aisles? Well, they really were. I saw it in NYC and it was fantastic. None of that schmultzy Broadway stuff, the setting was minimal and it was all you needed cause the show had substance and supreme talent. I would see it again...and I did I mention I hate musicals??

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