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jerseyboys_4

As you enter West 52nd off 8th Street on any Saturday night in New York City, you will encounter a special strain of excitement that crackles electric through the air. This is a particular brand of energy, one triggered by the anticipation of throngs of people as they gather outside of the playhouses and auditoriums in the mecca of theater, Broadway.

It’s night but the streetlights glaring outside of the theaters tell me it may as well be day. Neon signs and bright marquee boards sit just above the headline of the jittery theater patrons as they crowd the entrance to the playhouses, dressed in their best suits and fur coats, waiting to experience one of the oldest and most defining elements of civilized culture, theatrical drama.

It’s cold out here in mid-March but I can’t think about it because I’m too busy looking at the signs for the plays that people are crowding towards: There’s Hairspray. Wicked. Barefoot in the Park. Avenue Q. The Odd Couple. And dozens of other amazing shows that perform every night to thousands of audience members. This is my first time to see a Broadway play, and so I don’t quite know what to expect. But if it proves to be as good as the general anticipation in the air tells me it’s going to be, I know I am in for one hell of a show.

The August Wilson is a small theater, housing only 1200 people, but that doesn’t make it modest. As I walk into the entryway, I am greeted by a luxurious old world elegance that immediately makes me think of the charicature of the top-hatted, monocled blue-blooded man that is the embodiment of The New Yorker. Warm ochre walls and old glass chandeliers are aristocratic and timeless—the room welcomes the men and women of 2006 but seems to hearken back decades ago to a Golden Era of post-World War I gentility and style.

Andrea and I have made the mad dash from Boston to this New York City theater with only three minutes to spare until the start of the show. We greet Carmel, a friend of Andrea’s and a lovely woman whose brother is in the play—she’s also the reason we’re getting in free to the show. She hands us our tickets, and we climb the staircase where the ushers are efficiently and quickly steering everyone to their seat.

Walking down the carpeted aisle, I glance up at the balcony above and behind me and then the stage in front of me. More beautiful glass chandeliers hang from the ceiling but the stage is large and dark and set with a giant chain link fence that lends the otherwise warm and cozy theater an industrialized feeling.

The theater seats are small and unbelievably close together. Forget your spacious, airplane-style seats at the AMC cineplex; this place really packs ’em in. The deep seats and close proximity to your neighbor create an intimate environment, but I only dwell on it for a moment before the auditorium lights dim and the stage lights come up. The din of the crowd becomes a rustle, and then the opening song for the play explodes out of the theater as three young people burst onto stage in a dance.

Broadway was about to prove to me just what a force it could be.

****

Over the years I have seen several high school and college plays, but nothing I had seen there could prepare me for this. On the car trip to the city I had been more or less ambivalent about seeing Jersey Boys, a play about Franky Valli and the Four Seasons. I didn’t have all that much interest in the story—and I was approaching this experience more for its cultural value—A Night on Broadway in New York City—than I was for its entertainment value. But, to my surprise and amusement, I more than just enjoyed the play—I was mesmerized with the performance and the story from the moment it began to the very last second of the show.

Theater is sandwiched between real life and art; the highly-stylized backdrops and perfectly choreographed moves seem at first fictional and surreal, but the commanding voices of the actors and the details of their movements, such as the bits of spittle flying out of their mouths as they storm around the stage is intensely real.

The opening monologue of the character Tommy DeVito performed by Christian Hoff is quite amazing. He snaps his body up to the front of the stage, and delivers his lines with such perfect timing, wit, style and character that I find myself with a silly grin spreading across my face, completely engaged and entertained.

But it was not just Hoff; every actor was perfect. Every scene was without flaw. Every moment was choreographed and executed with absolute perfect timing. The backdrops were beautiful but judicious and the costumes were radiant. The actors were spot on with their Jersey accents and their singing voices were so true to the original band that I swore they were lip-synching. But they weren’t. Every bit of music and every song was performed live. I can only sum this performance up in two words; complete professionalism.

I never thought I would be this dazzled by a play, and a musical at that. But if you ever get a chance, go to New York City to see Jersey Boys, it won’t let you down.

Throughout the show, the audience was enthralled; everyone clapped and cheered, all 1200 of us were completely silent during the poignant scenes, and in the end, we all gave the cast members a much-deserved standing ovation as they bowed at the edge of the stage.

Afterwards, Andrea and I headed out with Carmel and her brother Steve, who plays several parts in the play, along with a group of about ten other people to a little bistro. A few minutes later, two other members of the cast showed up, and I shook their hands eagerly and told them how great I thought they all were. They smiled graciously and warmly but I knew from the smiles on their faces that accepting endless praise and admiration just come standard when you’re a star on Broadway.

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Currently Listening to: well…nothing..but I’m mentally reliving all the great performances of the classic songs of The Four Seasons

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Written by pocheco

March 20, 2006 at 10:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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