Note: Part I can be found here.
We left the hotel at 5pm in order to meet four co-workers of mine who were attending the performance with us, for a nice pre-event dinner at Pittypat’s Porch, a renown eatery about a mile from The Fox Theatre. Fans of “Gone With The Wind” will recognize the name of Aunt Pittypat as a character from the book and movie who would only prepare her best recipes when Scarlett came to visit in Atlanta. The menu is Southern-style cuisine and so is the service. Both were excellent and we spent about an hour and a half eating, talking and visiting. Cindy and I had our first ever Mint Julep. It was good, but too sweet for our tastes.
After dinner we drove to the theater through suddenly backed up streets, found a parking space and made it inside about 5 minutes before the curtain went up on an absolutely fantastic show you MAY have heard of…The Jersey Boys.
The Jersey Boys, winner of the Tony Award in 2006 as Best Musical, is the story of how Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, four blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the New Jersey tracks, came to be, using more than thirty of their musical hits to frame the history of this amazing group. Unless you’re already an expert on matters pertaining to them, I can guarantee you’re going to learn something, probably several somethings, about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
From the opening chords of the French version of “Oh What A Night” to the final note of “Who Loves You?” at the end of the performance, this production is more than just an excuse to showcase the group’s musical history. Their personal history is presented as well in a true storyline that will leave you laughing, singing, quiet with reflection and stunned at the tragedy, before bringing you back to laughing and singing at their personal and professional triumphs as the play concludes.
As great as the music is, this would not be the smash hit it is without the guys who portray the group. Matt Bailey is the handsome, sometimes lawbreaker Tommy DeVito; Steve Gouveia is the quiet, little-bit-odd Nick Massi; Josh Franklin is the quiet songwriting genius Bob Gaudio (who also wrote this play); and finally the spectacular Leo Bwarie is the almost four octave range voice of the signature sound of the group, Frankie Valli.
It is Bwarie’s stand-out performance that makes this show as great as it is. He captures the early innocence and naivete of Valli in his youth, shows both the heart of gold and sometimes feet of clay that Valli possessed, and made the role come alive with his singing and dancing, even eliciting a collective “Ooooohhh” from the ladies in the audience and an “Owwww” from the men when he did a perfect standing split.
But it does, after all, come down and back to the music. For most of us, it was the music of our youth and the feelings of nostalgia are hard to deny. I was 7 years old and a big fan of rock and roll in 1962 when their first charted hit “Sherry” was released, followed by “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like A Man” and “Candy Girl.” In 1964 they released “Dawn”, “Ronnie”, “Save It for Me”, and “Bye, Bye, Baby.” Over the next few years hits like “Let’s Hang On!”, “Working My Way Back to You”, “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ’bout Me)”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “C’mon Marianne” were all top 40 songs for the group, so you can see how their music would have suffused my life as I was growing up. The play features all those songs and more.
Suffice it to say we were “dancing” in our seats. The music, especially if you grew up with it but even if you didn’t, is infectious in every way. You sing along, you hum, you clap, you wiggle your butt in your seat. You could be a contestant on “Name That Tune” and be the person who names the song in one note, because as soon as you hear that first note you KNOW what song is coming. It was pretty incredible to see 5,000 people on their feet clapping, swaying and singing along to the chorus of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”
I love you, baby,
And if it’s quite alright,
I need you, baby,
To warm a lonely night.
I love you, baby.
Trust in me when I say:
Oh, pretty baby,
Don’t bring me down, I pray.
Oh, pretty baby, now that I found you, stay
And let me love you, baby.
Let me love you.
This is a play I would gladly pay again to see, and I don’t say that about many such shows.
The Fox Theatre is a beautiful venue. The decor is stunning, the acoustics are vibrant and the seats, ah the seats are SO comfortable. Even my wide-load posterior fit without the usual need to squeeze. This theater began it’s life 80 years ago as the headquarters for the 5,000 member Shriners organization before becoming a movie house in the 1940’s through the 1960’s.
It was in danger of being destroyed in the 1970’s when Atlanta’s downtown growth was exploding. But a preservation group prevailed, restoration was undergone and today, in addition to being designated a National Historic Landmark, The Fox Theatre is one hell of a venue for live performances like “The Jersey Boys.”
I bought the play CD, the original group “Very Best Of” CD, the original group live performance DVD and a T-shirt for Cindy. After saying our goodbyes to my co-workers, Cindy and I got in the car, popped in the original group CD and sang songs all the way back to the hotel.
Indeed, “Oh What A Night!”
If you have the opportunity to see “The Jersey Boys” I strongly urge you to do so. You won’t be disappointed.
To be continued…
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