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Revamped Jersey Boys

The new, largely Canadian cast that opened Tuesday night is a knockout.

If, for some crazy reason, you still haven’t caught up with the hit Dancap production of Jersey Boys at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, or if you’d been wondering if you should pay it a second visit, then wait no longer.

The new, largely Canadian cast that opened Tuesday night is a knockout: The best of the five companies I’ve seen across North America.

There’s something exciting about watching a performer you’ve seen for a long time make that extra leap into stardom, and that’s what happens to Jeff Madden in the role of Frankie Valli, the soaring, angel-voiced crooner who gave The Four Seasons their distinctive pop sound over 40 years ago. Madden has been a staple of the Shaw Festival for years, performing with polish and distinction, but who would have guessed that he had such a hard-edged, mean-streets, Jersey kind of guy lurking inside him?

Of all the Frankie Vallis that I’ve seen, he’s the only one who doesn’t seem a bit too nice and sentimental for the tough career choices his character has to make as the evening goes on.

Yeah, Madden may sing like one of the seraphim, but there’s more than just a touch of Lucifer in his eyes. Watch the tightly coiled way he performs Sergio Trujillo’s period-perfect choreography and you’ll see a man waiting to break loose on many levels.

His singing voice is sweetly flawless, but that’s no surprise from Madden. What will make you stand up and take notice is the wiseguy mantle he slips into as tightly as one of his designer Italian suits.

Madden’s success, however, is not a solo one. Thankfully, Jeremy Kushnier is still around as Tommy DeVito and his work grows more richly detailed with each viewing.

With the merest lift of an eyebrow or snap of a finger, Kushnier knows how to convey the external disdain masking internal turmoil at the heart of his character. As always, one is grateful for the energy he brings to the top of the show, narrating it with such breakneck speed that there’s no time to draw breath.

Kudos also to Michael Lomenda, who takes the potentially thankless part of Nick Masi and fills it with rich comedy and vividly felt anger.

 
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