MUSICAL DRAMA; 2hr 14min
STARRING: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken
Oh, what a night: from left, Lomenda, Young, Piazza and Bergen
Back in the 1960s, the Four Seasons popsters — lead singer Franki Valli (Young), keyboardist Bob Gaudio (Bergen), bass guitarist Nick Massi (Lomenda) and lead guitarist meets major worry Tommy DeVito (Piazza) — were quite the showy business, Beatles or no Beatles. Their bulging catalogue of mass-hits (“Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like a Man”…) continues to resonate, partly thanks to the still-playing and internationally performed 2005 Broadway musical on which director Clint Eastwood’s biopic is based, and partly because the soulful tunes are so gosh-darn catchy.
So it’s no surprise that Jersey Boys the movie comes alive onstage. Unfortunately — and unusually for Eastwood — it plods dutifully off it, the surprisingly inert mood never soaring to something out of the bandbox. The historical bases are done and dusted: basic New Jersey beginnings, brushes with the law, Mafia connections (Walken, smooth as old scotch, is mobster Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo), then a heady blast of fame shadowed, as fame so frequently is, by backstage burnout. That’s all fine as far as it goes, which is never much beyond A-B-C pedestrian. But when the otherwise stolid Frankie powers up in the spotlight, the shortie with the heavenly falsetto sure is something to see.