Anna White, a music theater artist from Lincoln living in New York City, told me she routinely recommends "Jersey Boys" to those who visit the Big Apple even though "it's been around forever now."
Now I know why.
"Jersey Boys," making its Nebraska premiere at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha, is a true story with a soundtrack of recognizable, singalong music.
And it's a must-see.
This isn't "Mamma Mia" with ABBA's hit music infused into a piece of fiction.
With a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, "Jersey Boys" is a real story about real people, chronicling the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, including the road bumps along the way, such as the death of Valli's daughter and member Tommy DeVito's gambling addiction.
The music, of course, is memorable with songs written by Four Seasons keyboardist Bob Gaudio and record producer Bob Crewe, who has a major (and sometimes humorous) role in the musical's story. The score includes "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man," "Oh, What a Night," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "My Eyes Adore You" and more.
For those unfamiliar with the show, I suggest not looking at the song list beforehand because you'll discover which song catapulted the Four Season to fame. You also will discover which hit Gaudio and Valli had trouble selling to record producers and radio DJs. The reveal in both cases was the performances of the songs.
The touring cast is exceptional, sounding just like the Four Seasons. Joseph Leo Bwarie leads the way with a dead-on falsetto of Valli. Matt Bailey (as Devito), Quin VanAntwerp (as Gaudio) and understudy Adam Zelesko (as bassist Nick Massi) also were impressive. The script allows for each band member to shine, letting them to tell the Four Seasons story as they remember it.
Equally impressive was the staging. Directed by Des McAnuff, the musical is fast-paced with more than 25 numbers featured and just as many scene changes. The Jersey Boys Orchestra, led by conductor John Samorian, moved effortlessly on and off stage.
It led me to wonder how in the heck an educational or community theater would handle this if the rights ever become available. The scene changes were that tricky and complex.
In the end, the story and music are what drives the show. I don't often see musicals a second time, but this is one I would go to again.
And again. Anna White knew what she was talking about.