It's just too good to be true.
Setting the gold standard for jukebox musicals, the Broadway blockbuster "Jersey Boys," the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, finally do-wops its way to the South Bay. The Tony-, Grammy- and Olivier Award-winning musical runs July 15-20 at the Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Broadway San Jose series.
The Des McAnuff-directed, irresistibly infectious musical has had Bay Area audiences in its palm since its first visit to San Francisco back in 2006. At its core, the show is an unstoppable parade of pop hits, including "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," "Working My Way Back To You" and the climactic "Who Loves You."
But "Jersey Boys" nimbly transcends the boundaries of the singalong genre because McAnuff ("Tommy") makes us care about the boys, even those of us who don't know Valli from Vivaldi. The tuner, which has been seen by more than 20 million people worldwide, interweaves these hit songs with a compelling narrative about four working class kids from New Jersey who came of age in the spotlight. This national touring production stars Quinn VanAntwerp, Hayden Milanes, Nicolas Dromard and Adam Zelasko as the fellows who made falsetto fashionable.
Since it's by far the most dramatically satisfying musical of its type, "Jersey Boys" takes the top spot in our guide to hot jukebox musicals. It's also the inspiration behind Clint Eastwood's hit movie version. Oh, what a musical. Here are some of our other favorites.
2. "Mamma Mia!": This is the one that started it all. The insanely popular ABBA musical made its U.S. debut in San Francisco in 2000 before taking Broadway by storm. This shamelessly silly tribute to those Lycra-clad '70s Swedish pop icons has become one of the most successful musicals of all time. One critic even predicted the show would put Prozac out of business. For its legions of fans, it's a habit-forming guilty pleasure built around catchy tunes such as "Dancing Queen," "Knowing Me, Knowing You" and "Take a Chance on Me." For the record, the 2008 movie version was a pale imitation of the stage smash involving a few too many actors who can't hold a note.
3. "Rock of Ages": Break out the legwarmers! This is a jukebox musical for those of us who lived through the age of wine coolers and acid wash. "Rock of Ages," which debuted on Broadway in 2009, bills itself as a "face-melting" romp through the canon of Bon Jovi, Journey and Pat Benatar. 'Nuff said. Sure, it's all empty calories, but there's nothing like an aesthetic sugar rush to get you through a tough day (or decade). In the heat of the moment, you just may find yourself fondly remembering the glory days of Gunne Sax and glam rock. Take heed, children of the '80s, nostalgia can be addictive.
4. "A Night With Janis Joplin": The ill-fated queen of rock 'n' roll lives again in this full-tilt musical, which played San Jose Rep before heading to Broadway last year. Created and directed by Randy Johnson, this is a rock concert that doesn't quite work as a play, but the music is simply sublime. It's a trippy flashback to the psychedelic '60s, when the Haight-Ashbury was the center of the universe and Janis rasped her way through iconic tunes such as "Piece of My Heart," "Cry Baby," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" and "Mercedes-Benz."
5. "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical": Carole King wrote an eclectic catalog of hits in the 1960s and '70s that are instantly hummable, even to those who weren't alive in that time. From "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "You've Got a Friend" to "I Feel the Earth Move," this boomer blockbuster has had audiences singing along ever since its world premiere at San Francisco's Curran Theatre last year before heading to Broadway. While the storytelling here doesn't live up to the songs, there's no denying that this score and star Jessie Mueller are some kind of wonderful.
Songs by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, presented by Broadway
When: July 15-20
Where: Center for the
Performing Arts, 255
Almaden Blvd., San Jose