Andy Christopher, Jonathan Moussete, Matt Magnusson and Matthew Amira in “Jersey Boys” at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Photo by Morgan Gavaletz LaMontagne

They probably didn’t spend the winter here.  But most of the cast and crew from the highly praised production of “Jersey Boys” that closed out the 2018 mainstage season at the Ogunquit Playhouse are back for another stay.

The abundance of superlatives used in describing last year’s run still very much apply. It is a high-energy show that portrays the inside story of four young men from New Jersey who rose from humble beginnings, entertaining mafia bosses and the like, to pop-music superstardom as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice provides not only the details of the career of the group but also can be quite touching in recounting their troubles in balancing life on the road with family life and the business side of what they do with their homeboy affection for each other.

Of course, there’s also all that great music by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe to take this very engaging show over the top into pure musical bliss. Among many enchanting moments, a trifecta of “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like A Man” is a highlight of the first act while some of Valli and the group’s later work shines in Act 2.

Matthew Amira, Andy Christopher, Matt Magnusson and Jonathan Mousset capture that Four Seasons signature sound which was based in vocal harmonies out of the doo-wop musical tradition. They also succeed at embodying the period choreography associated with performing music full of big emotions.

Mousset, as lead vocalist Frankie Valli, reaches those unforgettable falsetto passages with seeming ease while projecting the newfound charisma of the guy who initially had to be coaxed onto the bandstand. His take on “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is one of many highlights for a performer who obviously knows how a star connects with an audience.

Magnusson narrates some of the early action in his role as Tommy DeVito, the streetwise kid who threatens the quartet’s success with his volatile personality. His relationship with Valli creates a lot of the “drama” to which Christopher, as Bob Gaudio, refers in his more even-tempered role as the chief songwriter in the group.

Amira provides comic relief as the earnest, if not quite up-to-speed, Nick Massi. Tommy Martinez gets laughs as a young Joe Pesci, and Doug Storm makes for a fussy Bob Crewe, a man who knows the hitmaking industry well.

Caroline Iliff, Hillary Porter and Bailey Purvis add perspective as the romantic partners and family members entangled in what is essentially the man’s world of 1960s America.  Purvis has a particularly nice moment with Mousset on “My Eyes Adored You.”  The three women also stand out on a couple of girl-group numbers and sparkling dance sequences.

With instrumentalists coming and going from the stage, director Holly-Anne Palmer employs a multi-level set and many shifts in lighting to keep the action moving in a story that spreads over decades.

Even after a matinee performance of this very entertaining show, it seemed appropriate to have the refrains of “December ’63 (Oh What A Night)” resonating as the crowd made its way out into the late afternoon in Ogunquit.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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