by Keith Spencer
BEVERLY – With musical biopics dominating the box-office and our Netflix queues, it only makes sense that Jersey Boys is also drawing big crowds during its debut this week at the North Shore Music Theater.
The high-energy production is the Massachusetts Regional Theater premiere of the Tony award-winning musical as well as the show’s inaugural performance at a theater-in-the-round. While that may have put Producing Artistic Director Kevin P. Hill and Executive Producer and Owner Bill Hanney to the test, they certainly did not disappoint with a production truly worthy of the rock ‘n’ roll hall of famers.
Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, documenting their rise up the charts that took them from their humble beginnings to superstardom. They are the kind of band that should be difficult to emulate, yet Jonathan Mousset Alonso, Andrés Acosta, Alex Puette, and Luke Hamilton make it look easy, capturing their signature sound in an outstanding performance.
Jonathan Mousset Alonso is unforgettable as Frankie Valli with a falsetto that is in full bloom, hitting notes that a majority of singers wouldn’t dare attempt. It’s clear that he has had some practice as he previously appeared in this role at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Alonso’s standout performances include “My Eyes Adored You” and most certainly “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”.
Andrés Acosta brings a brash bravado of a bygone era to his portrayal of the band’s self-proclaimed founder, Tommy Devito. Acosta easily connects with the audience, narrating his point of view as the lovable yet flawed musician who is ultimately kicked out of the band for his reckless behavior. Hamilton and Puette also get their chance to show off their acting and singing chops, alternating as narrators while providing their character’s take on the group’s behind-the-scenes drama.
The quartet’s most memorable moment comes with a trifecta of harmonized hits during the first act including “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, and “Walk Like a Man”. This kicks the show into overdrive, and it continues through to the finale with “Working My Way Back to You”, “Ragdoll”, and “Who Loves You” despite a few downer moments induced by the plot.
The entire cast exudes the essence of the mobbed-up Jersey stereotype, especially Acosta, from the hair to the accent to the f-bombs and other profane language prevalent throughout the show which left the audience in stitches on several occasions.
The production vibrant vocals are accompanied by impeccably timed choreography, and may only be eclipsed by the NSMT Orchestra’s blockbuster performance under the direction of Milton Granger. Stunning suits in several shades also bring the era and iconic look of the band to life with superb costume design by Dana Pinkston that sparkles under a lighting design by Jose Santiago.
While the set may seem simple at first, a massive metal catwalk rotates onstage to create space and time for crossovers between scenes and locations. This staging allows the chemistry of the cast to remain at the forefront rather than unnecessary glitz and glamour.
It was clear the cast and creative team formed a bond that will leave many remembering this production for some time to come, a sentiment echoed by Jonathan Mousset Alonso in a conversation following the show.
“My favorite part of this production was the sense of community,” Alonso said. “Knowing there’s a whole company of like-minded individuals working towards and committed to creating beautiful art during every single show is amazing. The entire team at North Shore Music Theater has welcomed us into their community which they have clearly worked very hard to cultivate.”
The show will definitely leave audiences thinking, “Oh, What a Night”, and I can assure you that the experience will leave you singing along on your ride home. “My hand to God,” as Tommy Devito would say.