Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 11:02 pm | Fair 49º


Review: Pleasures Abound in ‘Jersey Boys’ at Granada

The Theater Leagues production of ‘Jersey Boys’ at the Granada Theatre iscolorful, engaging and warmly accessible. From left, Chris Stevens, Jonny Wexler, Tommaso Antico and Corey Greenan. Click to view larger
The Theater Leagues production of ‘Jersey Boys’ at the Granada Theatre iscolorful, engaging and warmly accessible. From left, Chris Stevens, Jonny Wexler, Tommaso Antico and Corey Greenan. (Joan Marcus photo courtesy of Theater League)

If you didn’t make it to the Granada Theatre Monday night to see Theater League’s national tour of Tony Award-winning “Jersey Boys,” the good news is you have another chance Tuesday night. 

And there’s only more good news after that, because the production is colorful, engaging and warmly accessible. 

The musical history, personal stories and group dynamic of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons unfold through narration, drama, music, the clever wit of musical theater, and inventive turns of set, silhouette, lighting and neon signs. 

If the music itself doesn’t speak to something tender and meaningful in your past, it does to the guy sitting behind you. 

He can’t help singing along, softly, here and there, a few golden lines, in tones that spoke of memories lovingly felt.

I attended with my teen son, who’d never heard any of the songs, and he enjoyed it from beginning to end.

Let’s recount the pleasures. 

First things first: the vocals. Plenty of solos showcased individual singers’ diverse strengths. And the lyrics and harmonies are burned into the minds of many in the audience.

The actors who played three of the original Four Seasons each brought a distinct flavor of the home-town Jersey-boy aesthetic and mood. 

Jonny Wexler, who plays Valli, captures his character’s vocal range, which is expansive, and the guy is tireless. He sings virtually without a break from 10 minutes in until the lively finale.

And he’s only building momentum through the first nearly 30 songs to get the vocal climax of the show. It’s the triple-gold single that made Valli a solo star.

Michelle Rombola and Jonny Wexler share a kiss in ‘Jersey Boys’ at the Granada Theatre. Click to view larger
Michelle Rombola and Jonny Wexler share a kiss in ‘Jersey Boys’ at the Granada Theatre. (Joan Marcus photo courtesy of Theater League)

“Plus which” got him the complete horn section he’d always wanted. “Plus which” almost never made it to stage nor vinyl. “Plus which” became the fifth-most played song of the 20th century. “Plus which” stole the breath of the entire Santa Barbara crowd Monday night.

No spoiler; they make you wait for it, so I will too.

The instrumentation sounded rich, but was mysterious. Where were all the musicians? A drummer was visible inside the moving set, but were the guitar, bass and keys onstage really producing the sounds? Was there more of a band than we could see? 

It’s enjoyable to be kept curious.

Speakers and mics allowed even those of us in the acoustic trouble zone under the balcony to enjoy full sound.

The choreography was sharp, stylish and historically spot-on. 

Flawless unison movement redefines virtuosity as a group effort, not necessarily the purview of individual stars. Four or more moving as one, especially while singing and playing instruments: that’s amazing to see.

Among the show’s clever treats, the following: 

Thematic structure. Each “season” of the story is told from the perspective of one of the main characters. 

Staging. The group’s biggest concert success is portrayed with the performers facing upstage, backs to the Granada audience as they play to a faceless adoring crowd behind lights that make us squint. 

Film. Career turning points fueled by TV appearances on “American Bandstand” and "Ed Sullivan" are filmed from the stage and shown in authentic black-and-white on a giant screen overhead.

Linguistic. “Some are born great. Some have greatness thrust upon them. And some achieve greatness and then f*&! it up.”

While humor, love for the music, and creative drive get the most stage time, the play doesn’t shrink from the full spectrum of life experience, character flaws and punches to the gut that life dishes out. 

Extremely limited seating remains for Jersey Boys on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Granada Theatre.

Tickets: 805.899.2222.

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