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Jersey Boys (and Girls)

| Thursday, December 5, 2013


Scene Writer

Excitement is brewing in downtown South Bend and it’s coming from the Morris Performing Arts Center. Jersey Boys has stepped out from its Broadway home into South Bend and they are bringing their A-game. The charming, laugh-out-loud performance will surely make you want to bust out in song and dance the whole night through. 

Jersey Boys is the story of Frankie Valli and his group, the Four Seasons: Frankie Valli (Nick Cosgrove), Bob Gaudio (Jason Kappus), Tommy DeVito (Nicholas Dromard) and Nick Massi (Brandon Andrus). This musical shows how a group of blue-collar boys from New Jersey transforms into rock and roll Hall of Famers.  

While The Four Seasons got their start in the 1960’s, the music is by no means outdated. Who can forget hits like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” in “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Big Girl Don’t Cry” in “Dirty Dancing”?

The entire performance, especially the sways and falsetto, were memorable. But there was one thing that made me literally close my eysy. Periodically throughout the show, comic-book style artwork would pop up on a screen at the rear of the stage and it would semi-blind the audiencd. In addition to being incredibly bright, I was slightly confused as to the value the artwork added. 

But all in all, the singing, the costumes, the dancing and the props were everything you would expect from a Tony, Gramy and Laurence Olivier Award-winning musical. Just a hint, be prepared to have these songs stuck in your head for a good while.  

I got the chance to go backstage and meet with two of the show’s stars, Marlana Dunn and Thomas Fiscella. Dunn plays Mary Delgado and 12 other parts, and Fiscella plays Gyp DiCarlo and three other parts. 

The Observer: How do you guys feel to be a part of Jersey Boys?

Dunn: It’s awesome. This is a show that everyone can relate to. The music is very relatable and the story is very relatable especially to those of us in the entertainment industry. By the end of the show, everyone is up on their feet and dancing. So it doesn’t matter what kind of day any of us have had, any of the audience have had: We are all smiling, laughing and crying by the end. It’s really awesome to be a part of something like this. 

Fiscella: When people come to see the show, their energy is so high because the expectation is there. They’ve heard about it from their friends or they’ve seen it themselves or they were listening to the soundtrack online. That level of excitement and anticipation is great for a performer so it’s a real thrill when we show up in a town like South Bend and we know the anticipation level is high. It’s great for us because we love the story that we tell and we love sharing it with people. Before I was a performer in the show, I saw it as an audience member so I felt that same level of excitement. Now I feel like I get to have that repeat experience every night. 

O: Now that you are on the other side of it playing multiple roles, how do you switch between characters? Is there one you like playing the best?

D: I play Mary, Frankie’s wife, and Tom plays Gyp. I have 12 other characters that I have to play. Collectively there are only three girls in the show and we play over 50 characters so it’s a little crazy. But the costumes and the wigs and everything, it all helps you to transform. Some of the changes happen very quickly. I have the quickest change in the show and it is eight seconds so shifting from one person to the other, you kind of have to play on your schizophrenia. 

F: I love playing the mob guy, [Gyp DiCarlo], and he’s certainly a favorite because of who he is and how he influences the story. But I also love the smaller characters that I play. I play this bowling alley owner who just takes one look at these guys and basically says, “No, you’re not going to play in my bowling alley and I don’t want your kind here.” I love who this guy is because he is a real character — he is a really strong character and he just shows up, says what he says and leaves. To me, it’s about being a part of the fabric, being one thread in the fabric of this whole tapestry of the story. 

D: Yes and all these characters are 100 percent real people. 

F: There is a police officer that is seen in the show and he didn’t have a name at first. A guy showed up, sees the show and says, “Hey, I was that police officer.” So they verified that through the real Frankie and the real Bob and sure enough, now we have to say this is Officer Petrillo because that is the real guy. 

O: What is your favorite part of the show?

D: The show is about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons so the women in the show are slightly less prominent. But of course we serve a purpose in telling the story. So something about my character is that she is a really nice arch. The love between her and Frankie, the not-so-great times and the really bad times – you see it all. So it’s fun to be able to a play such a strong, funny, foxy woman. But my favorite song is “Who Loves You.” I love that, every single night!

F: “Who Loves You” is way up there and it really is a culmination of the show where so many of the elements come together in that moment and you can’t help but get excited about it. But I also like even very small, non-big-spectacle moments in the show. There is some very honest work that happens that you wouldn’t necessarily see in a huge spectacle type of show. There are some really small moments, just little exchanges and moments from the heart. Those to me are as thrilling as the big spectacle moments. 

Jersey Boys runs for approximately two-and-a-half hours, including and 15-minute intermission through Dec. 8 in the Morris Performing Arts Center. Tickets start at $28.

Contact Elaine Yu at [email protected]