The hard-bitten world of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is as tough and compelling as their music. That’s why “Jersey Boys,” the Tony Award-winning musical about the group, tells the story of both the music and the world that music came from. Moving in and out of this revealing bio-show are Jewish loan shark Norm Waxman, Italian mobster Gyp DeCarlo, and gay producer-composer Bob Crewe. Thanks to a singularly unsentimental book from Jewish veteran musical writers Marshal Brickman and Rick Elice, “Jersey Boys” has gripped audiences with the group members’ individual stories and their iconic repertoire. The intimate revival at the North Shore Music Theatre is no exception.
NSMT producing artistic director and choreographer Kevin P. Hill makes the most of the theater in the round with a revolving Kyle Dixon metal scenic design complete with spiral stairways. Actors walk through the aisles, among the audience, which gives the Rashomon-style accounts of the groups’ story more immediacy.
The musical gives three-dimensional portraits of all four members of the Four Seasons quartet. Frankie Valli sings with great range and emotion, but struggles to be an attentive parent. Tommy DeVito is depicted as cocky and manipulative. Bob Gaudio is an ace composer – especially when he teams up with producer and songwriter Bob Crewe to write the hits “My Eyes Adored You” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” – but he yearns for more of a life outside of his music. Nick Massi is dutifully loyal to DeVito, even at the expense of his own advancement. Still, they all share wonderful moments of synchronized movement and vocal harmony in big hits like “Walk Like a Man” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
Jonathan Mousset Alonso is an exciting standout as Valli. His rich performance – here as in a solid recent staging at Ogunquit Playhouse – features a vibrant falsetto worthy of Valli, risk-taking gusto in the NSMT round theater, and touching sadness as a grieving parent. Vocal highlights include Alonso’s electric “Beggin’” and his building fire on “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Quite simply, Alonso’s work here is award-worthy.
Andres Acosta is self-assured as the domineering DeVito. Luke Hamilton communicates all of Gaudio’s enterprise as a songwriter and his brotherly caring for Valli. Alex Puette is hilarious as a Massi who can’t stand living with DeVito. Alaina Mills is heartbreaking as Mary Delgado, Valli’s wife who was addicted to drugs. Josh Greenblatt as Joey Pesci (who later became an Academy Award-winning actor) has terrific enthusiasm about Gaudio’s talent. Michael Allan Haggerty is chillingly understated as Norm Waxman, the antagonist loan shark.
Brickman and Elice make a cogent case for seeing the Four Seasons’ hits as the music of factory workers, and truck drivers. Agree or disagree, the answer to the group’s question-like song title “Who Loves You?” – especially at the joyous NSMT “Jersey Boys” – should be “Everyone.”
“Jersey Boys,” North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, through September 1. Visit nsmt.org.