FORT WORTH The musical Jersey Boys has been such a hit since it blasted onto Broadway in 2005 that it makes you wonder: What’s so special about a show that could easily be cast into the same heap as all the other “jukebox” musicals that have popped up in recent years?
But based on the touring production that opened a two-week run at Bass Hall on Wednesday, the answer is, simply, everything.
We have known for decades that the music of Jersey Boys¸ the hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons mixed with a few other chart toppers of that era, can please a crowd. So it is no surprise that the music works.
But what is unexpected is how the music is used. Some of the numbers are presented in a concertlike manner. But much more often, those familiar tunes are offered as snippets or are used to move the action forward and tell the story.
One particularly effective example of that is the extensive staging of December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) — one of the few tunes heard more than once in the show — where all sorts of information is conveyed and many deeds are done, including one band member learning how to do more than just walk like a man.
That is the key to Jersey Boys. It is much more about its story than about its music. And the way the text and the score are woven together is nothing short of masterful.
The saga of the Four Seasons is presented in four parts in this Performing Arts Fort Worth presentation. Would you have ever guessed that those parts are spring, summer, fall and winter? Each of the sections is presented by one of the original band members.
The first fourth is narrated by Tommy DeVito (Nicolas Dromard), a tough-talking petty criminal who both founded the band and very nearly destroyed it. Dromard does a fine job of revealing this proud and significant, but also most flawed, member of the group.
Summer is presented by Bob Gaudio (Quinn VanAntwerp), the young songwriter who allowed the band to turn a corner and crank out hits. VanAntwerp is an exceptionally good actor with a great voice we hear too little of in this show. He is ideally cast in that he looks so little like his older bandmates — an appropriate choice because he was such an outsider in the group.
Fall is covered by Nick Massi (Adam Zelasko), the bass player who feels so overlooked that he refers to himself as the Ringo of the band. The dashing Zelasko is surprisingly funny in the role and takes full advantage of what little the part gives him to do.
Winter is turned over to Frankie Valli (Hayden Milanes in the Wednesday performance seen for this review; another actor sings the part in four of the shows in this run). The falsetto-voiced star is somewhat deified in this show, put together primarily by Gaudio. His character is not quite as compelling because the writing related to him seems a little less honest.
But none of that is the fault of Milanes. He sings the heck out of those songs we know so well ( Sherry, Rag Doll, Working My Way Back to You) and provides the glue to hold the show together.
The overall presentation of the material is artfully seamless thanks to the book, which was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and an unbelievably versatile scenic design by Klara Zieglerova. The show is long (more than 2 1/2 hours) but it moves like a runaway train thanks to that wonderful set and Des McAnuff’s direction.
Every other detail — from Jess Goldstein’s costumes to Sergio Trujillo’s choreography — is handled with just as much care.
This production is the byproduct of a great show that, through repeated stagings and performances, has now been honed and polished to a glimmering luster that an expensive diamond would envy. To borrow a sentiment from a Seasons hit, this show hangs onto everything it’s got.