If you’re going to spend half a day on a bus (especially if you sit over a wheel well that makes your whole body rumble), you’d better be going somewhere that’s worth it. Mom and I took the bus to San Francisco today to see “Jersey Boys” on stage at the Curran Theater, and oh boy, was it worth it.
“Jersey Boys” is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, from the early days in New Jersey, through all the decades and all the hits, to their eventual induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That covers a lot of ground, and a lot of emotion, and it’s a story told with heart and humor, acted and sung beautifully by the kids in the cast. You come away really feeling as if you’ve been through the ups and downs all along their journey.
But it’s also, and mainly, about the music. In fact, the songs themselves are like characters in the play. Their entrances are foreshadowed, and their personalities are built up so that by the time the group hits the first note, you’re primed for an emotional lift. And they nail it every time, so much so that I got choked up more than once, just hearing a song that I’ve heard hundreds of times before. It’s one of the most transcendent experiences I’ve had in musical theater.
Being in the audience for this performance was electrifying. I’ve never been to a show where the audience responded so readily and eagerly to applause lines and dramatic turns. It must have been great fun for the actors to perform in this kind of atmosphere. And I can say without fear of contradiction that everyone on our bus, most of whom were even older than I am (imagine), enjoyed it almost as much as I did. Almost. And that’s a lot.
I was a kid when I first heard of the Four Seasons, and I bought their records. Somewhere I still have the 45 of “Rag Doll” (backed with “Silence Is Golden”). This music is part of the soundtrack of my youth, and it holds up pretty well after forty years. I’ve always thought that the material is the most important part of a performer’s act, that without good songs a singer goes nowhere. “Jersey Boys” portrays the perfect match of singer and material, and the kind of magic it creates. It was certainly magical today at the Curran.