There is no Sherry, no Dawn, no Marianne in "Jersey Boys." There are no big girls crying. "Jersey Boys" doesn't entirely conform to the jukebox formula, namely a score cobbled together from hit tunes, around which a contrived narrative is shoehorned.
Instead, this exuberant bio-musical about the rise and fall of The Four Seasons, in a superb touring production that opened Sunday at Chicago's LaSalle Bank Theatre, charts a wiser, more honest course. It unfolds as a play with music, with the group's hits serving as a soundtrack to the classic rags-to-riches-to-wreckage-to-reconciliation tale alternately told by each of the members. To that end, many of the numbers in the show, which boasts the same creative team from Broadway, are done concert style, to terrific effect, with several numbers bringing the opening night crowd to its feet.
With a sly book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (the first act is an especially brisk and tidy bit of storytelling) and bold lively direction by Des McAnuff, this production delivers on its promise as one of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the season. Credit also goes to Sergio Trujillo for his slick 1960s' pop-group choreography; Klara Zieglerova for the minimalist metal and chain link set and Michael Clark for his Roy Lichtenstein-inspired projections.
But what makes this show are the four leads who play these blue collar boys with conviction and charisma. There's Jarrod Spector, whose pristine falsetto Frankie Valli would be proud to call his own; earnest Drew Gehling as the group's songwriter Bob Gaudio; Michael Ingersoll, enigmatic as Nick Massi, the self-described Ringo; and the wonderful Jeremy Kushnier, who nearly steals the show with his passionate performance (a cross between Frank Sinatra and Tony Soprano) as minor-league hood Tommy DeVito.
3 1/2 stars out of four
Location: LaSalle Bank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago
Times: 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays through April 13
Running Time: About 2½ hours, including intermission
Parking: Paid lots
Box office: (312) 902-1400 or www.ticketmaster.com
Rating: For adults, contains explicit language and sexual situations