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In Review

“Jersey Boys” Packs the House

Forestburgh Playhouse

Bill Moloney
Posted 8/18/23

Depending upon your musical inclinations, age (and memory!), you may not realize how many chart topping hits the Four Seasons had. You may not know who the Four Seasons were. But the second you hear …

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In Review

“Jersey Boys” Packs the House

Forestburgh Playhouse


Depending upon your musical inclinations, age (and memory!), you may not realize how many chart topping hits the Four Seasons had. You may not know who the Four Seasons were. But the second you hear the lead falsetto voice of the one and only Frankie Valli, your memory will immediately lock onto those high-pitched lyrics that only he could pull off. I was looking forward to seeing Jersey Boys at the Forestburgh Playhouse and apparently so was everybody else! The Tuesday night openers I attend usually have nice turnouts, but aren’t jam-packed like this show. And for good reason.

Jersey Boys opened on Broadway in 2005 and ran for ten years making it the 12th longest running show on Broadway. In the process, it also took home four Tonys in 2006 including Best Musical. Unlike most Broadway hits, a scaled down Jersey Boys production moved to Off-Broadway after its Broadway stint and ran for a few more years until COVID closed it along with the rest of Broadway. Now that’s a popular show!

Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s script relays the story of how these four “Jersey boys” became the 1960’s hit group. It’s an interesting format that has each of the four taking turns telling their side of the ups and downs chain of events. It appropriately starts out with guitarist and group leader Tommy Devito (played by Rory Max Kaplan) describing their street corner singing and often-times petty criminal lifestyles. He’s followed by guitarist Nick Massi (Alec Michael Ryan), keyboardist/songwriter Bob Guardio (Stevie LeWarne) and of course, lead singer Francesco Castelluccio. You guessed it: Frankie Valli (Nicholas Combitsis).

The plot takes us from their Italian Moms’ arms to finding the final members to bowling alley gigs, their big break, and right into their musical success that was rife with conflicts, money problems and heartache. It’s a pretty neat story that uses 30 plus songs to move the plot along. Very cleverly, I might add. Scenic Designer Gisela Estrada’s set is somewhat simple, but is in constant motion with set pieces continuously coming in and out. Kudos to the ensemble cast who made this happen slickly through dark and misty conditions. However, I did feel that the first thirty minutes or so of the production had some actors in darkness. I couldn’t tell if actors missed their mark or the lighting was supposed to be that shadowed. I understood it for a couple of street scenes and a dark church scene, but the shadows seemed to mask a little too much early on. But soon, lights were up and the visuals were dazzling. 

I mentioned the ensemble earlier, but neglected to praise their energetic display during back-up vocal and dance sequences as well as a plethora of varied supporting roles. There are wonderful performances in supporting roles, but a pretty cool double role portrayal is that of Bob Crewe (the group’s go-to guy/songwriter) and Gyp (a Jersey loanshark) played by Barry Anderson. Mr. Anderson played the role on Broadway for six years and is a treat to watch.

It goes without saying that you don’t have a show without The Four. Rory Max Kaplan (Tommy), Stevie LeWarne (Bob), and Alec Michael Ryann (Nick) are fabulous. There’s great chemistry here. You’d think these guys grew up together. It’s so nice to watch these street corner tough guys sing such tender songs. They transport you back to those days with “Rag Doll”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like A Man”, “Dawn”, and my favorite “December ‘63”. And there are many, many more. But these classics don’t come close to being believable without that signature falsetto; the voice of Frankie Valli played by Nicholas Combitsis. Mr. Combitsis…..Wow!  I mean, let’s face it. When casting this show, you’ve got to find this guy first. If you don’t, well, you better pick another show. Mr. Combitsis channels Mr. Valli and makes this production soar!

Jersey Boys packed this barn and it did not disappoint!

Jersey Boys will run through August 27. Tickets and info are available through the box office at (845) 794-1194 or online at fbplayhouse.org.


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