Playhouse Square is hosting its third tour of “Jersey Boys” a musical that attracts audiences significantly larger than the typical musical theater fans. The story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, “Jersey Boys” has a strong and straightforward story line of the formation of the successful 1960’s era group. The fact that the group did not have an aura of glamor surrounding them made fans disinterested in how they formed. Instead, their music which captured who they were as well as where America was at, was the focus of the fans. So too with the musical. The audience at opening night at the State Theater enjoyed the lengthy and dynamic “book scenes” but really came alive in the concert elements of the show.
The first act builds to three of the best known songs: “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Sherry” and “Walk Like a Man.”Probably the audience’s favorite moment in the production comes when the core musicians including three saxophones, two trumpets and a trombone join the singers on stage. Many in the audience sang along.
All of the music in “Jersey Boys” is by Bob Gaudio, who emerges to me as the most interesting character in the story. Quinn VanAntwerp is a lanky and visually bland Gaudio which makes his chemistry a dramatically volitile mix with Hayden Milanes’ brash Frankie Valli. Totally different types,they’re equally passionate about their music, and that dynamic comes through loud and clear in this production.
Directed by Des McAnuff and with the letter prefect choreography of Sergio Trujillo, this production of “Jersey Boys” also boasts improvements in lighting and projection technology that was not possible when the show opened almost a decade ago. It’s bright and loud, and it also is filling the seats of the State Theater. “Jersey Boys runs through Sunday.
In contrast, in a quiet part of the Tremont neighborhood, Convergence-Continuum theater is presenting a cool study in relationships. The show is part of their season focusing on odd animals. “Swimming in the Shallows” starts off realistically enough. Barb is talking with Carla Carla about having too many possessions, and becoming liberated–like a Tibetan monk–by ditching most of her material things. Soon we learn that Carla Carla and her partner Donna are going to have a wedding. We also find out that their free spirit friend, Nick, has fallen in love with a shark at the aquarium where Donna works.
Comedic, absurd, and a bit dated, “Swimming in the Shallows” has some clever dialogue by playwright Adam Bock, and good performances all around by the cast of six. Bock writes in very short scenes, which can work well but often are a sign of a playwright who can’t sustain a longer scene. That is not the intention here. Amy Bistock Bunce is a sensible friend to all. Zac Hudak gets to be an outrageous Nick in his infatuation with shark Ryan Edlinger. I marveled at Costume Designer Scott Zolkowski’s “fin” costume which was attached by a weird harness that looked like some sort of S&M device. The least developed character in the show is Bob, friend of Barb. All we learn about him is that he likes to buy things, in contrast to Barb. I did not get a sense of where the action takes place, maybe New England, based on the sensitivities of the characters?
At a fast one hour running time “Swimming in the Shallows” is the right length for the material. It runs weekends through May 24 at The Liminis on Scranton Road. Call 216 687-0074 for reservations. Customer service is huge at Convergence-Continuum.