Spending an afternoon in a superbly air-conditioned theatre seeing a play or musical is quite possibly one of the best ways to beat the summer heat and humidity and be thoroughly entertained at the same time. The post-July 4th weekend (as opposed to the pre-July 4th weekend, as July 4, 2012 awkwardly fell on a Wednesday, the middle of a work week and on a matinée day) was especially hot and humid. As I made my way to TKTS in Duffy Square, I saw that, again, just about every Broadway show (aside from the few that are never there, and the ones that are dark on Sundays). I also noticed the vastly long lines for both the general and express play lines and I didn’t feel like waiting out in the middle of (a shade-less) Times Square, and unlike the last time I was at TKTS, I knew exactly which show I wanted to see: Jersey Boys.
So I made my way to the August Wilson Theatre and saw that there was already about a dozen people waiting under the marquee for the box office to open to purchase tickets; thankfully, I had brought along a printout of a discount code valid only for the 4th of July week. Needless to say, it came in handy, as the conversation with the Box Office Ticket Lady (BOTL) went something like this:
Me (showing the BOTL the printout of the discount code): What seats can I get using this discount code?
BOTL (typing on the computer keys): How many tickets?
Me: Just one.
BOTL (still typing): There’s a seat in the first row orchestra center…
Me: I’ll take it.
And that’s how I got to see Jersey Boys for the first time – from the first row orchestra center, which came as a total surprise, as those seats are usually held for the student rush. It was also my first time seeing a show at the August Wilson Theatre (previously known as the Virginia Theatre). Jersey Boys tells the tale of the origins, rise and almost inevitable implosion of The Four Seasons – Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi – each member taking turns addressing the audience to tell their side of the story. I’m not so sure why I had not seen this show sooner, (it’s been on Broadway for over five years now) but the impetus to see it now was prompted by the return of John Lloyd Young, who originated the role of Frankie Valli, to the cast. While I was familiar with most of the more famous songs, “Sherry”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, “December, 1963 (Oh What A Night)” etc. but I wasn’t really a fan. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and learned a bit too: for instance, I didn’t know that Joe Pesci (“yeah that Joe Pesci – who knew?”, as Tommy DeVito says in the show) had, according to the narrative, played an early, integral role in the formation of the group.
As the signs in the lobby proclaimed (rather humorously), “Flashing strobe lights, loud gunfire and authentic, profane Jersey vocabulary are special effect used in this production of Jersey Boys”, there was an abundance of profanity, one instance of loud gunfire and some flashing strobe lights during the show.
There was not too much by way of scenic design – props and set pieces were brought on and off stage, and there was no visible orchestra pit, as the musicians were onstage. The current cast was amazing, especially John Lloyd Young was astounding, with a voice that has an uncanny knack of sounding almost exactly like Frankie Valli, and another standout performance was from understudy Miles Aubrey as Nick Massi, the self-proclaimed “Ringo” of the group (which got a good amount of rolling laughter from the audience near the end of the show) – who spent much of the duration of the show in the background, not saying too much, until a pivotal scene in the second act where he lets out a lengthy tirade that surely must have been bottled up for too long. Seeing the show right in the first row of the orchestra was quite a treat, though a bit of a strain on the neck (but nevertheless worth it) – from that vantage point, I could see all the raw emotion conveyed on their faces, see the creases in their suits, and even smell the hairspray and see the sweaty brows and spit spray flying across the stage (and thankfully not towards the audience).
The stage door experience was great, as always – interestingly, the metal barricades were placed very close to the stage door itself (usually the metal barricades are at least two feet or so away from the door.). There was a good amount of theatre goers waiting at the stage door for the cast to come out; I was fortunate enough to meet all four of the main leads, who were all friendly and signed playbills and posed for photos. There was much cheering when John Lloyd Young emerged from the stage door (with copies of his brand new album “My Turn”, which he insisted everyone who posed for photos with him to hold in said photo.I’ve downloaded his songs from iTunes and they are amazing. John Lloyd Young will be in Jersey Boys until September 30th, so if you live in New York City or plan to visit during the summer, I highly recommend catching his performance (and getting a copy of his CD, which he will gladly sign). All in all it was quite an eventful and entertaining way to end my weekend.