By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The original Jersey Boys Frankie, Tony winner John Lloyd Young, may have sounded note for nasally note like the real thing, but young Bwarie is the new and improved Frankie Valli 2.0—cuter, a more polished dancer and with a voice that produces sounds as high, pure and silvery-round as bells. The kid should be a star.
Steve Gouveia, Broadway's original Nick Massi (who jokes that he's the "Ringo" of the group), still looks fresh and full of fire in the touring cast here. As the brooding Tommy DeVito, Bates goes from cocky street thug to power-hungry pop star back to thug with flashes of humor and menace. Both men sing with newcomer Bwarie like they've been together for years.
Coming close to stealing the whole show out from under the other Seasons is its Bob Gaudio, Andrew Rannells. With a face and physique that are more classic Beach Boy than Jersey shore, Rannells becomes a true co-star with Bwarie's Frankie. The musical bio of The Four Seasons belongs as much to the man who wrote their hits as it does to the one out front who sang them.
The uncredited character in Jersey Boys is the audience. Out of a thousand opening nights, the one for this production stands out for the unbridled reaction by the crowd. When the band struck up the first notes of "Sherry," oh, baby, there erupted the kind of crazy-loud applause, cheers and whistles usually reserved for a finale, not for a moment in the middle of a first act. By the end, it was just a mad, continuous roar of appreciation for the songs, the singing, the everything that Jersey Boys offers as one of the rare perfect nights of American musical theater.
Any other week, the new production of Nine at Irving's ICT MainStage wouldn't have to be an also-ran in terms of rave reviews. Directed by Michael Serrecchia, who also did The Full Monty at Theatre Three, the Maury Yeston musical fills the stage at the Dupree Theatre with 17 beautiful women and one impossibly good-looking man, Donald Fowler as main character Guido Contini, an Italian film director stuck for a new script idea while awkwardly juggling a wife (Patty Breckenridge) and several paramours.
Serrecchia, who also choreographed, places the players amid the marble stones and arches of a glam Italian spa (designed by Paul Fiorella). Lighting by Sam Nance creates the illusion of rippling blue baths reflecting onto white columns. Perched like black-clad goddesses on their thrones, the ladies in Guido's life take turns tormenting him in song. His wife wants him to be faithful to her. Lover Carla (long-limbed Ashley LeGrow, poured into a sexy lace bodysuit) dirty-talks in the ironically named "A Call from the Vatican." Producer Liliane LeFleur (Andi Allen) vamps Guido, begging him to do films as sexy as the Folies Bergère.
Musical director Scott A. Eckert takes a six-piece pit band and makes it sound like a full orchestra with strings and woodwinds. All the voices are bellissima.
It's all a luscious, lovely romp. Nine gets a 10.