In Maine, the hot summer days may be past, with fall on the horizon, but the Ogunquit Playhouse has one last sizzler on tap before saying goodbye to summer. The playhouse is closing out its 86th season with the regional premiere of “Jersey Boys,” about the legendary pop group Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

The electrifying tribute sent excitement rippling through the playhouse opening night with concert-like performances that garnered standing ovations and fast-paced storytelling that swept the audience up into the real-life tale of four musicians from New Jersey.

No matter what your age, you’d be hard pressed not to have at least heard of The Four Seasons. The group had its first hit single in 1962 with “Sherry” and became a jukebox staple with subsequent hits like “Walk Like a Man” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Frankie Valli’s choirboy-like falsetto and multi-octave range was unlike anything the music world had heard before, and unlike other harmonizing groups, each member had his own distinct vocal sound.

“Jersey Boys” takes the audience behind the music, revealing the “boys,” their roots and what they did to become icons. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have written a vibrant biographical story that has it all – mobsters, gambling, loan sharks, sex and drugs – with each chapter capped by a musical performance that knocks your socks off.

The story has an engaging flow and continuity that is driven by narration from each member of The Four Seasons. Ogunquit Playhouse has cast a stellar group of performers to step into their legendary shoes. Jonathan Mousset takes on the role of lead vocalist Frankie Valli, with Matt Magnusson as Tommy DeVito (lead guitarist and baritone vocalist), Matthew Amira as Nick Massi (bassist and bass vocalist) and Andy Christopher as the group’s songwriter Bob Gaudio (keyboardist and tenor vocalist).

Magnusson kicks off the narration in 1950s New Jersey as Tommy, telling how he and his brother Nick (an original band member) were in and out of jail for breaking and entering and hustling. The magnetic Magnusson oozes bad-boy charm that really draws the audience into the tale and takes it on one heck of a ride through The Four Seasons’ history from Tommy’s point of view. Along the way, he recruits Frankie and Bob, who wrote the teen hit “Who Wears Short Shorts” at the age of 15.

The narration seamlessly shifts to Christopher and later to Amira and Mousset. All are animated storytellers who captivate the audience with their character’s version of historical events. The audience learns a lot of fun facts along the way, like that actor Joe Pesci (played by Sean Burns) introduced Bob to the group, which got its name from a bowling lounge sign.

The story in itself is captivating, but the performances of The Four Seasons’ hit songs make it unforgettable. Backed by a largely unseen five-piece band, Mousset, Magnusson, Amira and Christopher recreate the look and sound of The Four Seasons as if the audience has gone back in time and is watching the real deal. Mousset’s falsetto and range, like Valli’s, is astounding, and the harmonies of Magnusson, Amira and Christopher are heavenly.

Ogunquit patrons may recall seeing Amira as Jehan Frollo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and Christopher in the 2012 production of “Buddy” as Tommy Allsup. Christopher went on to later star as Buddy Holly in the national tour and appeared in the role at Maine State Music Theatre in 2014.

Audience members were bouncing in their seats and clapping with glee opening night as the four performed “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and the entire audience was on its feet cheering when the oversized “Four Seasons” sign lit up the stage for a spot-on performance of “Walk Like a Man.” Later, the audience was nearly swooning as Mousset delivered “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”

In total, the cast performed 33 songs, including “Cry For Me,” “Stay,” “Bye Bye Baby,” “Rag Doll” and, by actors playing The Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Back.”

Along with the four stars, the production features an entertaining 14-member cast, with many of the actors slipping into multiple roles. They include Doug Storm as The Four Seasons’ record producer Bob Crewe, Andrew Aaron Berlin as loan shark Norm Waxman, Bailey Purvis as Frankie’s first wife, Mary Delgado, and Erin Ramirez as Frankie’s daughter, Francine. Peter Gregus, who played Bob Crewe in the original Broadway cast, took on the role of mobster Gyp DeCarlo opening night as a stand-in for David McDonald.

It’s been 56 years since The Four Seasons released its first hit song, and Frankie Valli, now age 84, is still going strong as a solo artist. “Jersey Boys” offers a fascinating look at The Four Seasons’ inception and legacy and serves as a rousing testament to the enduring power of its music.

The Ogunquit Playhouse’s cast and crew, under the direction of Holly-Anne Palmer, delivers a production that, like the Four Seasons, won’t soon be forgotten.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ahboyle

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