Reimagined, intimate ‘Jersey Boys’ soars at NSMT

Alex Puette (Nick Massi), Jonathan Mousset Alonso (Frankie Valli), Andrés Acosta (Tommy DeVito), and Luke Hamilton (Bob Gaudio) in JERSEY BOYS, playing at North Shore Music Theatre thru September 1. Photo by Paul Lyden

BEVERLY – The musical “Jersey Boys” won four Tony Awards in 2006, including Best Musical, and ran on Broadway from 2005 to 2017.

Still, there were those who wanted to dismiss the story of the Four Seasons as a very good “jukebox musical,” as if somehow a show with a ready-made score not written specially for Broadway made it a little less special or a little less entertaining.

The North Shore Music Theatre production of “Jersey Boys” is a perfect marriage of book, music and the talents of nonpareil director/choreographer Kevin P. Hill, whose expertise at working in the space transforms the piece seamlessly from the proscenium stage to NSMT’s in-the-round facility.

The result is an exhilarating musical experience, and. at a recent performance. I counted at least four numbers that literally stopped the show in its tracks. As Frankie Valli, Jonathan Mousset Alonso’s falsetto never falters, in good form all night.  He earned rave reviews for playing Valli at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine and is a consummate showman; at one point during an extended ovation  he implored the crowd  to keep the applause coming.

The original Four Seasons were composed of four very distinct personalities  Their story is told through the eyes of Tommy DeVito (Andres Acosta). the leader of many different vocal groups who spent a stint in jail, as did fellow bandmate Nick Massi (Alex Puette).

Jonathan Mousset Alonso (Frankie Valli) with Michael Allan Haggerty and Corey Mosello in JERSEY BOYS, playing at North Shore Music Theatre thru September 1. Photo by Paul Lyden

DeVito  is the first to hear the voice and put  a young Valli on stage, but the various groups they’re part of are going nowhere until a young kid named Joe Pesci (Josh Greenblatt) – yes, that Joe Pesci – connects DeVito and Valli with a young Bob Gaudio,(Luke Hamilton),  a  musical wunderkind who had a hit record at 15.

Gaudio’s musicianship and writing abilities are combined with the acumen of flamboyant record producer/lyricist named Bob Crewe (a fine comic turn by Barry Anderson) and the rest is history.

Among the 34 – count ‘em, 34 – musical numbers are  legendary top ten hits such as “Sherry,“Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,”  “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and “December, 1963 (Oh What A Night),” which begins and ends the night in rousing production numbers.

The Tony Award-nominated book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice  rolls out in a documentary-like style  the highlights – and the lowlights  – of the lives of a  group of rough ‘n tumble New Jersey kids who rode tight  harmonies and  drive and determination to selling hundreds of million of records before finally arriving at the Rock and Roll Hall pf Fame.

 It is Jersey to its core, from the rough language to the humor, but it has in its Mob scenes the feel of its close cousin the TV series “The Sopranos,” where the real Frankie Valli had a recurring role.

NSMT Owner/Producer Bill Hanney has invested considerable amount of resources in bringing the full experience of the show to NSMT audiences.

If – as I have – seen “Jersey Boys” on Broadway and on national tours, you’ll fall in love all over again with this reimagined production that offers an intimacy that wasn’t possible before.  

Set designer Kyle Dixon has constructed an elaborate system of scaffolds, platforms,  and ladders and stairs that allows the performers to move up, down and around the stage, aided by a rotating stage and the below-stage platform that allows for entrances and exits from the center of the stage.

Music director Milton Granger has been entrusted with a long list of NSMT productions including the   franchise production of “A Christmas Carol,” and here he leads an energetic 10-piece orchestra that does full justice to the Gaudio-Crewe classics.

Hill and Granger made an effective decision to move musicians playing horns to various points around the theater for some numbers, a technique Granger and NSMT have also used in “Carol.”

It all works. The NSMT production of “Jersey Boys” is a great story well-told, wrapped around music that has stood the test of time.

The North Shore Music Theatre production of “Jersey Boys. Original Broadway Stage Production by Dodger Theatricals. Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice.  Music by Bob Gaudio Lyrics by Bob Crewe. Director & Choreographer: Kevin P. Hill. Set design: Kyle Dixon. Costume design: Dana Pinkston. Lighting design: Jose Santiago. Sound design Daryl Bornstein. Hair and wig design: Rachel Padula-Shufelt. Music Director: Milton Granger. At the North Shore Music Theatre through Sept. 1.