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“Jersey Boys” tour as fresh as ever (East Lansing, Wharton Center) Review October 9, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Broadway Tour, Entertainment, musical theater.
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Okay, granted, the Wharton Center is a bit late in the game with the Broadway tour of Jersey Boys which has been traveling around the country for years now…but the production currently appearing in East Lansing is as fresh as ever, with a fine cast.

Lead by Joseph Leo Bwarie (in the Frankie Valli role) and a very strong Preston Truman Boyd (as Bob Gaudio), the entire cast looks and sounds terrific (For the record, Michael Lomenda and Matt Bailey round out the quartet). The women are as strong as the men in this cast, and the vocal sound is top notch across the board. In fact, when Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons come to life in their big numbers, they sound better then the REAL Frankie Valli and company. Bravo.

The tour also has the virtue of having to adapt its sound system into hundreds of theaters in the past few years, hence they have it down to an art, and it sounds fantastic in the Wharton Center. No dead spots here. It sounds great.

The audience ate up the show. The cheering, clapping, and shouting start early in the evening, and raise to fever-pitch by show’s end by which time the audience is standing and dancing along.

If you have never seen Jersey Boys, it’s terrific as a show — the music is interwoven into a smart script that never gets too “musical” but never strays far from the roots of theater. The direction and choreography are sharp and work well in both more intimate as well as larger numbers. It’s a show that has found its popularity among those who don’t usually like musical theater. No tap-dancing and magic tricks here. Just pure, theatrical magic.

By all means, go visit these Jersey Boys…the show is as fresh as ever, and that’s saying a lot when its been as well-traveled. To quote Frankie, it just keeps “going and going like the Energizer Bunny”. ¬†You should go see it, too. If you’ve seen it before, you already know how terrific the show is, and this cast will win you over. If you’ve never seen it before, you are in for a treat.

Wharton Center (East Lansing) announces 2010-2011 Musical Theater Season March 28, 2010

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Theatre.
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Wharton Center in East Lansing has announced their 2010-2011 Season.

Mary Poppins – November 3 – 21

9 to 5: The Musical – December 15-19

Stomp – January 21-23

Shrek The Musical – February 8 – 13

Chicago – April 8 – 10

Jersey Boys – Sept 28 – Oct 16 (2011) – Which technically makes this the 2011-2012 season, but I guess Wharton Center is charging for them now with their subscription for 2010-11 — Go see it in Toronto where it has a sitdown production.

“Jersey Boys” best tour to hit Detroit in ages (Review) December 26, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Detroit, Entertainment, musical theater, Theatre.
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I can’t recall a cast and production of a Broadway tour to hit Detroit that is this excellent from top to bottom. JERSEY BOYS is the ticket for a cold winter night in Motown, and it’s proving to be a huge audience favorite.

This is not the first time I have seen Jersey Boys. I saw it in NYC when it first opened, and in it’s sit-down production in Toronto (where it is still playing). It also has a long-running sit-down in Chicago. But this is the first time I have seen an audience reaction like that in Detroit.

Steve Gouveia, Joseph Leo Bwarie, Josh Franklin and Matt Bailey in “Jersey Boys.”

First, the production — this is a show that was developed on the road in La Jolla, so it’s an easy production to tour — it looks exactly like the Broadway and sit-down productions because of it’s easy to transport set/video screens/scaffolding. It looks marvelous. It also looks fabulous inside the Fisher Theater, itself a throwback to 60’s glam.

Second, the cast — this is a cast that is comprised of members of the original cast, other productions across the country, and is a true ensemble. Sure, the cast members don’t look like the real people, and at times they don’t even sound like the Four Seasons — but it really doesn’t matter. What you have here is a talented acting/singing/dancing cast that truly form a blended family on stage. You really believe these people are real, and you care about them.

Third, the audience — I have never seen a reaction like that in Detroit at the performance of Jersey Boys that I saw last week. The more reserved Broadway audience cheered and clapped; the Toronto audience was appreciative but generally stoic — but the last time I have seen this type of super-charged audience reaction to a show was the original Dreamgirls in NYC in 1982. The audience is positively electric — they cheer throughout – stand and cheer often, and it’s a marvelous feeling to be in a theatre and watch that magic occur.

The first spark comes with the transformation on stage, “Sherry”; and it carries on to the end. The highlight of the second act is the surprisingly emotionally-charged “Cant Take My Eyes Off of You”. The energy is so palpable you can feel it — and the cast thrives on that energy and notches up their performances as the show goes along. They grab you, and they hold you there.

It’s the best tour I’ve seen come through Detroit in 15 years. And I wonder why it took so long to get here — it’s a perfect fit for a blue-collar town, and the sound created by Franki and the Four Seasons draws as much on Motown as it does the Jersey beat.

Highly recommended – even if you have seen it already. This is something special – and it’s guaranteed to get you out of your seat and feeling really fine on the way home. And that feeling lasts for days. The line at the souvenir stand attests to this, as happy Detroiters snap up copies of the Original Broadway Cast Album of Jersey Boys on the way out the door. It’s that kind of show. You want to take it with you.