MTC in Norwalk
By: Karen Isaacs - Sep 26, 2023
Seeing Jersey Boys now at MTC in Norwalk through Oct. 1 on a smaller stage where most of the playing area is close to the audience gives a new perspective on the show.
It became “up close and personal” as Nathan Cockroft as Tommy DeVito flirted with the audience.
Jersey Boys is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, from struggling to find their “voice” and getting started in 1950s New Jersey to the 21st century.
The story is told from four different perspectives – and each has processed their story differently; this makes the show particularly interesting.
The show opens narrated by Tommy DeVito, who put the group together and was, for many years, “the leader.” But then we get the perspective of Bob Gaudio (Sean McGee), who joined the group and wrote many of their hits. Later we hear from Nick Massi (Stephen Petrovich), who was the bass player, and, of course, from Frankie Valli himself.
In many ways, it is a familiar story. A group of young men dream of a music career; they find the missing pieces and make it big. The nonstop touring takes them away from home and family and offers plenty of diversions on the road. Tensions develop, and trust is broken. The original members split, but one member reconstitutes the group as back-up to his solo act and continues achieving great success.
Kevin Connors, the director, has assembled a fine cast. Several of the performers have done the show before, either in one of the many tours or in other theaters. Their experience shows. But Connors has also made some clever directorial choices, as have choreographers Dan O’Driscoll and Katie Goffman. Kudos to sound designer Jon Damast, who kept sound levels appropriate without blasting us out of our seats.
MTC is a small theater; audience members are never far from the main playing area which is surrounded on three sides with the audience.
Connors makes extensive use of the aisle leading out of the theater for entrances, exits and partial scenes.
Three women – Brianna Bauch, Skye Gillespie and Emily Solo – change wigs and costumes constantly to play all the women in the show. They are girlfriends, wives, other singers, journalists and more. Each is very good. You may not recognize them as they appear as a totally different character.
Many cast members play multiple roles.
Selecting the right performers to play Frankie, Tommy and Bob Gaudio is essential.
Michael Fasano is a terrific Frankie. He’s played the role before, and it lends an assurance to his performance. Plus, he absolutely nails the Valli sound.
As Tommy, Nathan Cockroft has the least sympathetic role. Tommy wants to be the man in control but fails due to his inability to control his temper, his womanizing, and his gambling. You may understand him and possibly even feel sorry for him, but you don’t necessarily like him. Cockroft makes the most of his womanizing reputation by flirting with a few audience members. It’s not overdone, but it is fun.
Sean McGee has played Gaudio before; his performance reflects that experience.
When performers are on a traditional stage, it is less obvious if they are older or younger than the characters they are playing. It is easier to see when they are closer to the audience.
Jersey Boys covers 50 years, so no single group of performers will be the appropriate age. Most of the time, it wasn’t a problem. You may recognize that Valli, Gaudio, and others aren’t teenagers in the beginning, but you can accept that they are. The one that distracted me was Cockroft as Tonny. It seemed that his great pompadour was streaked with what appeared to be gray. If only it had been covered up.
But with that tiny complaint, I completely recommend this production whether you have seen the show many times or if this is your first time.
For tickets, visit MusicTheatreOfCt.com