We’ve reached what I call the Janus point in the performing arts calendar.

Janus was a two-faced Roman god. One visage looked back, while the other looked forward. That’s where southern Maine’s performing arts organizations stand in late May.

On the looking-forward side, Ogunquit Playhouse is the first of Maine’s summer theaters to open, launching 2019 with a sensationally good professional production of “Jersey Boys,” one of modern Broadway’s biggest hits. It runs through June 15.

On the looking-back side, Portland Players just opened the final show of its 2018-2019 season with a splendid community production of “Guys and Dolls,” the 1950 Broadway classic musical comedy. It runs through June 2 in South Portland.

‘Jersey Boys’

Like the Roman god Janus, jukebox musicals have a two-faced reputation. Positively, they are known for great music. Negatively, the music is often connected by weak or non-existent story lines.

This latter negative aspect is emphatically absent in “Jersey Boys,” which is currently running at the Ogunquit Playhouse. “Jersey Boys” is one of the most successful – both critically and commercially – Broadway shows of the 21st century. It’s based on the music of the Four Seasons, a pop quartet that sold millions of records and featured the soaring falsetto of frontman Frankie Valli in songs that were specifically written to showcase his voice.

“Jersey Boys” has also sold more tickets than any other show in Ogunquit Playhouse’s long history. This show is a virtual repeat of last fall’s best-selling production.

The score for “Jersey Boys” includes chart-toppers “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Dawn,” “Big Man In Town,” “Let’s Hang On,” “Workin’ My Way Back To You,” “C’mon Marianne,” “My Eyes Adored You” and “Rag Doll.”

That’s totally expected. What’s not expected is the totally engrossing plot and the quality of the acting.

The book, by Marshall Brickman and Rick Ellice, uses biographical format, recounting the rags-to-riches tale of four Italian-American guys from New Jersey: Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi, Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio. The latter wrote the music for most of the Four Seasons’ hits.

Among the surprises: Despite the Four Seasons’ clean-cut image, three of the four band members had gritty, unsavory backgrounds and had gone to prison. After achieving sensational success, the four guys were constantly entangled with unsavory women, greedy recording industry figures and Mafia types.

Ogunquit’s production, directed by Holly-Anne Palmer, is flawless, fronted by Jonathan Mousset’s portrayal of Valli. Mousset’s powerful falsetto voice is the can’t-forget feature of the evening, and he’s also a fine actor, rendering Valli’s highs and lows with conviction.

Excellent supporting roles are filled by Matt Magnusson as DeVito, Matthew Amira as Massi and Andy Christopher as Gaudio.

“Jersey Boys” runs through June 15 at the Ogunquit Playhouse, a mile south of the village on Route 1. Call 646-5511 or visit OgunquitPlayhouse.org.

‘Guy and Dolls’

If “Jersey Boys” represents a high point of the modern era of Broadway musicals, “Guys and Dolls” represents a pinnacle of the classic era.

An utterly perfect blend of memorable comic characters, lushly beautiful music and an exceptionally clever plot, this 1950 show has been revived numerous times on Broadway and remains one of the most popular shows for regional professional companies and local community troupes.

For these reasons, “Guys and Dolls” represents a formidable challenge. So many people have seen it – and loved it – that expectations run far higher than normal.

Portland Players meets or exceeds all these expectations with its current community production, delivering a solidly satisfying rendition of this Broadway masterpiece.

The story unfolds in Times Square in New York, with most of the characters drawn from a legion of gamblers and others from the lowlife of the district. Starkly contrasting are the characters from the Save-a-Soul Mission, who aim to redeem and reform these sinners. That’s the conflict, and the wonderfully drawn comic fallout is what makes “Guys and Dolls” so charming.

The book is by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, with score by Frank Loesser, all of whom shared the 1951 Tony Award for Best Musical. The concept was drawn from the characters and short stories of Damon Runyon.

For Portland Players, director Vincent Knue gets stellar performances from his cast of 29. Tops of course are the four principals – contrasting romantic couples in the tradition of Shakespearean comedy – played by David Bass-Clark, Jenny Brown, T.J. Scannel and Caryn Wintle. Other fine performances are given by Adam Gary Normand and Michael Donovan, playing a comic pair of lowlifes.

Portland Players, 420 Cottage Road in South Portland, presents “Guys and Dolls” through June 2, with 7:30 p.m. performances Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Call 799-7337.

“Jersey Boys,” one of the biggest hits of Broadway’s recent decades, opened the 2019 season of summer theater at Ogunquit Playhouse last weekend.

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