Review: ‘Jersey Boys,’ Downsized

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From left, Mark Edwards as Nick Massi, Aaron De Jesus as Frankie Valli, Cory Jeacoma as Bob Gaudio and Nicolas Dromard as Tommy DeVito in “Jersey Boys” at New World Stages. Credit Joan Marcus

Rock shows tend to work better in small rooms than in arenas, as the performers’ proximity forges an intimate, often fevered bond with the audience. So the reopening of the Four Seasons-inspired musical “Jersey Boys” — whose numbers are often staged as if in concert — at an Off Broadway theater less than a year after it concluded a 12-year-old run on the main stem could have been an opportunity for renewed energy.

But while the Tony-winning original could soar to goosebump-inducing heights as heady as Frankie Valli’s falsetto, the new production remains tied to the ground.

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Many of the famed songs in “Jersey Boys” are staged as if being performed in concert. Credit Joan Marcus

That this “Jersey Boys” still delivers some Pavlovian thrills is a testament to the solid foundation laid by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book, and by Des McAnuff’s deceptively straightforward production, centered around a bi-level scaffold (the set is by Klara Zieglerova).

The jukebox musical, especially of the biographical persuasion, is littered with clunkers — for every “Beautiful,” there is a “Lennon,” a “Ring of Fire” or a “Baby, It’s You!” Back in 2005, when it first opened, “Jersey Boys” made the genre look easy.

The show deftly tracks the story of the Four Seasons from their early fumblings in 1950s New Jersey to their recruiting of the boy wonder Frankie Valli (Aaron De Jesus) and the songwriter Bob Gaudio (Cory Jeacoma). Truckloads of chart-toppers, including “Sherry” and “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night),” ensued, and the band was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

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Natalie Gallo as Mary Delgado and Mr. De Jesus as Frankie Valli in the biographical jukebox musical. Credit Joan Marcus

Professionally speaking, the quartet remained on an upswing for years. Behind the music, the story was less rosy. Alpha-male guitarist Tommy DeVito (Nicolas Dromard) and steadfast bassist Nick Massi (Mark Edwards) had rap sheets and, in Mr. DeVito’s case, a mob connection; Mr. Valli cheated on his wife and lost a daughter to drugs.

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