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On the silver screen: ‘Jersey Boys:’ Not a musical, but a good time

When “Jersey Boys” opened on Broadway eight years ago, it was promoted as a musical. It is not a musical. “Jersey Boys” is still running on the Broadway stage, to great success. It is still being promoted as a musical. The perception by all who intend to see it on the boards, whether on Broadway or its national tour, is that it is a musical. It is not a musical. It is a play with music. Now it is a film with music – lots of music but it is not a musical.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, “Jersey Boys” the movie, is a very effective drama about the rise and fall and rise again of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Yes, there are plenty of songs to be heard in this entertaining biopic. But there also is plenty of drama. It really gets heavy, in the second half of the film. The sparks fly as the cast delightfully chew the scenery. It is great fun to watch.

“Jersey Boys” is, in many ways, an old-fashioned movie about entertainers. You can see something like this almost every night on television’s TCM channel. It is very much a formula script, with all the cliché’s kept intact. There’s the expected feuding and fighting among the band members, the usual domestic quarrels with the wife and the guilt at neglecting the children, due to career demands. It is all on hand, masterfully acted and directed, resulting in a swell time at the movies.

And then there’s the music — all the hits from “Sherry” to “Big Girls Don’t Cry” to the show-stopping “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

It is performed by the very talented cast - no dubbing or lip-synching to the original group. Repeating his Tony award-winning performance as Frankie Valli, John Lloyd Young is simply wonderful. However, Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito, the band member who is most responsible for creating the Four Seasons, almost walks off with the movie. He gives a star-making performance! Also exceptional are the other two band members; Erich Bergen, as composer Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi, as Mike Lomenda, the unhappy bass singer who just wants to live a normal life.

The movie moves along briskly. Despite its show biz cliché’s, “Jersey Boys” has some surprising elements, regarding a very sad chapter in Valli’s life. This sad turn only enriches the drama and adds credence to the story. Adding even more credibility to “Jersey Boys” are Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio as producers.

Whether or not you are a fan of The Four Seasons, “Jersey Boys” will entertain. With a sharp script by veteran screenwriter Marshall Brickman, amusing supporting performances by Christopher Walken and Mike Doyle, “Jersey Boys” delivers a solid entertainment.

A fun tidbit for baby boomers: Barry Livingston of “My Three Sons” fame appears briefly yet substantially in two highly charged scenes. No longer little Ernie, see if you recognize him.

Jersey Boys” is currently in theaters.

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