Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (The SOB Review)

Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (The SOB Review) - Mystic Showroom, Mystic Lake Casino, Prior Lake, MN

*** (out of ****)

What could be better than the stage musical fascimile of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons now known the world over as Jersey Boys?

Why, the real deal, naturally.

Over 190 seasons may have come and gone -- literally and almost figuratively -- since Frankie Valli and his first musical partners Tommy DeVito, the late Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio first appropriated the name of a bowling alley (that turned them down after a failed audition) and went on to legendary fame as they scored 40 top 40 hits, sold over 100 million records and became fodder for one of Broadway's most successful shows of the past five years.

Quite incredibly and almost impossibly, the man born 74 years ago in Newark, NJ as Francis Castelluccio still hangs on to what he's got with that amazingly high falsetto. I went in expecting to hear him sing an octave or even two below what he's known for. Even if his vocal instrument isn't quite as powerful as it once was or if he moves a tad slower than he used to, he still solidly nails every high note.

(But note to Mystic Lake's on-site camera team: the split second delay in beaming the live images up to your giant screens ill-served your talent and audience as it almost appeared as though Valli was lip-syncing.)

While the composition of The Four Seasons is a quintet, including Valli and four young men who likely were born long after the group scored its last number one hit "December, 1963" back in early 1975, they built from a slow start to exciting finish with plenty of flash and unwavering pizzazz. Blending nearly flawless vocals with exhilarating spot-on choreography, it was easy to turn back the clock, if only in my mind, and imagine this was how the original foursome dazzled their earliest fans. I can't help but wonder whether the producers of Jersey Boys are considering tapping their talent.

But in the end, it's Frankie Valli the crowd is there to see, and if he no longer has the energy of a man half his age, he most certainly has the voice of one. Once he gets revved up, he gladly and quite proudly delivers. With plenty of affectionate banter with the audience, including gladhanding with the entire front row, no less, Valli remains a master showman with no signs of slowing down.

If there's one disappointment, it's the time devoted to his current album, "Romancing the 60s." While Valli and his band offer spirited new covers of old classics like "Spanish Harlem," "My Girl/Groovin,'" and "Call Me," among others, the real reason why the audience is there is to hear the singer steer them through the valley of familiar Four Seasons terrain.

Fortunately, this icon doesn't seem to tire of the chart-topping catalog that placed him and his Four Seasons forever on the cultural landscape. He practically does them all, from the group's first hit "Sherry" all the way to his last solo number one "Grease."

One moment that truly sent shivers down my spine was listening to this living legend sing his signature tune "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." To call it magical would be an understatement, but it underscores just how much better it is to see the real McCoy in person any day over a rough fascimile.

Oh, what a night, indeed.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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