“Jersey Boys” returns home to San Diego


“Jersey Boys” electrifies audiences with old school classic hits.

“Jersey Boys” electrifies audiences with old school classic hits.

While San Diego is widely regarded as a booming community for the performing arts, it is also credited as the birthplace of one of the most successful and groundbreaking musicals in the last decade: “Jersey Boys.” The worldwide hit premiered on Oct. 5, 2004, at the La Jolla Playhouse, where it laid the foundation for a timeless spectacle that has since enjoyed over a decade of sold-out crowds and critical acclaim.

On Tuesday, Oct. 21, nearly ten years to the date of the premier, the Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning musical made its triumphant return to the city where it all began at the Civic Theatre located downtown. The audience was filled with a wide range of ages, from people who were there the night it first opened to those who were seeing the show for the first time. No matter the reason, they packed the theater to see the true story of one of America’s most iconic pop groups, The Four Seasons.

The play does an incredible job of depicting the humble beginnings that the four boys from Jersey were able to rise up from in order to achieve commercial success. This fantastic storytelling can be attributed to Academy Award-winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Their uncanny ability to intertwine the captivating origin of the band with the hits that made it famous can make audience members forget that it is a musical at all. Unfortunately this can also make the production seem lackluster near the beginning when the band is still forming, but big numbers featuring, “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” quickly put the show back on track.

While the raw honesty of the story allows the audience to relate to the characters through band member disagreements, financial struggles and family deaths, it is the music that truly lifts the crowd out of its seat. Junior Jennifer Wolkenstein found the music to be a strength of the show and the main focal point.

“As stupid as it sounds with it being a musical, I really enjoyed how much music was in it,” Wolkenstein said. “It was a really lively show with the songs they chose and they were incorporated into the plot really well.”

The show features over 20 songs that span the group’s career, dating back to when they were called The Four Lovers. Aside from the aforementioned hits, the group’s mesmerizing melodies are showcased in “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” and “Who Loves You.”

It is hard to deny the talent of all four actors onstage. However, as Wolkenstein explains, it is lead actor Hayden Milanes who steals the show.

“Milanes had a spectacular voice mimicking the exact voice of Frankie Valli,” Wolkenstein said. “He had an exceptional performance and is an amazing performer.”

His presence while dancing around the stage, coupled with that classic high-pitched, powerful voice, are what makes The Four Seasons come to life and undeniably makes “Jersey Boys” the spectacle that it is.

The music, along with the artistic influence of director Den McAnuff, has allowed this masterpiece to grow into its own brand over the last 10 years. Seeing as it is unlikely to be going anywhere soon, students will have ample opportunities to experience it for themselves. Wolkenstein does caution them, though, that the show lends itself to lovers of music.

“I would recommend it for students who enjoy the musical side of theater,” Wolkenstein said. “For those who don’t like musicals that much, it probably isn’t the show for them, but if they like singing they should definitely go see it.”
It is a production that gets down to the core of music and the struggles that artists face in the business. Seeing a group of four unlikely kids from Jersey overcome the pressures of show business and captivate people worldwide is something that truly any music fan will appreciate.