Pillbox

Jersey Boys tour features alumni actors

An explosion of 1960s rock and roll known as Jersey Boys has made its way to Pittsburgh, and is playing at the Benedum Center until Sept. 23. This hit Broadway musical outlines famous pop band Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons’ rise to fame. The tour production opened last Tuesday and has already begun playing to full houses. The current cast features two Carnegie Mellon alumni, both of whom give stellar performances.

Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and his journey from being a boy with talent to an international superstar. Act I revolves around Tommy DeVito and his attempts to create a successful music quartet; the second half of the musical focuses on the now-successful quartet and its troubles with fame, money, and family.

Despite its small size, the cast of the production is fantastic. Brad Weinstock steals the show as the iconic Frankie Valli, and his performance is supported by an unforgettable Tommy DeVito, played by Colby Foytik. Jason Kappus is extremely entertaining as Bob Gaudio, and although Brandon Andrus is the least featured among the four, he is memorable as Nick Massi.

The staging throughout the show is sleek and the transitions are smooth. Pop art images are displayed on an electronic billboard that flies over the stage in nearly every scene. This vibrant display is a clever method of introducing scene changes and helps keep the transitions moving.

Jersey Boys acts as a time warp, transporting the audience back to the 1960s. Eye-catching costumes, thrilling music, and traditional set pieces all add to the ’60s atmosphere. The show features several hit songs such as “Walk Like a Man,” “Bye Bye Baby,” and the show favorite, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

The musical is fast paced, with many small character roles in addition to the four main actors. Among them is Valli’s girlfriend Loraine, played by Carnegie Mellon alumna Kaleigh Cronin. Cronin, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in musical theatre, plays a total of 18 different characters in the show. “There are only three women in the show; we play over 50 parts combined,” Cronin said. “And that’s everything from waitresses to the boys’ mothers and girlfriends and nurses.”

Also part of the cast is Skye Scott, a 2010 alum of the Carnegie Mellon musical theatre program. Like Cronin, Scott plays multiple characters in the show, although his primary character is Billy Dixon. “It’s really exciting every night to go through this journey of playing so many different people,” Scott said. “It’s a little crazy because you’re changing costumes constantly and backstage is very hectic, but it’s a blast.”

Jersey Boys requires actors to make quick costume and set changes; however, Scott and Cronin both attest that their time at Carnegie Mellon trained them well for this type of show.

In her senior year, Cronin was one of three actors in a show called Vanishing Point. “I had to play a million parts in that,” Cronin explained, “and it really prepared me for an experience like Jersey Boys. Lots of costume changes, jumping between voices and characters. That was actually the perfect segway into my role in Jersey Boys.”

With its classic music and great American success story, it’s no wonder that Jersey Boys is drawing in theater patrons from across the country. So far, the show has experienced an enthusiastic reception from the public — even at the preview night last Tuesday. “Usually for preview nights, people aren’t so responsive,” Cronin said, “but it was awesome. There were tons of people there and the crowd was great.”

The tour cast has been making its way across the nation for nearly a year, and Pittsburgh is just one stop of many. As Scott put it, “We’re getting paid to tour the country and experience every city. We’ve been doing the show for 10 months now.... We’re really in a great groove now with the show.”

Indeed, this “groove” is evident throughout the performance as all of the actors change roles seamlessly and maintain their energy throughout the performance. “_Jersey Boys_ is the most amazing show. It appeals to everyone,” Cronin said. “I used to think it was a show for people my grandparents’ age, but it really is so much fun.”