I hate when I am asked to pick my favorite musical because all my favorite shows I like for different reasons and at different times. There are musicals that I don't like at first but then learn to love and there are musicals that I love but then grow out of. Even so, I always have my top three favorites (obviously a show can be booted out of the top if something else comes along). Right now if someone were to ask me what my top three favorite musicals were, I would tell them: Les Miserables, American Idiot, and Jersey Boys.
Yes, Jersey Boys. I'll be honest, when asked three (or four, maybe) years ago if I was interested in seeing the show I was hesitant, figuring it was just a tourist trap and I wouldn't be interested. But then I saw the show and my entire view changed. I grew up in a house where my dad didn't love Frankie Valli's voice so I wasn't well-versed on The Four Seasons. Many years ago I actually saw him in concert but I can't remember a thing about it other than it didn't seem all that special at the time, and wow was he old to sing so high.
I know there will be people who disagree with me, that don't think the show is all that special. But to tell you the truth, I think if you were to break it down and analyze the structure and all that other stuff, it is a pretty perfect musical. Yeah, okay a lot of the songs sound the same. It's definitely a little campy at times. And maybe jukebox musicals are just not your cup of tea. The show just pulls me in and I could see it again and again.
But this post isn't about the Broadway musical, it's about the movie. The movie that so far has had rather high audience reviews but mediocre to low reviews from critics.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was freaking out and extremely excited when the previews finally ended and the lights dimmed this afternoon. Like everyone else I was skeptical upon hearing the plans for a film and I had incredibly high expectations.
My expectations were maybe a little too high, but by no means was I disappointed. Unlike the stage musical, the movie was not perfect.
The biggest issue for me was the casting of Nick Massi, or the dude with the super low voice. Nick is the stupid one, the big Italian oaf-like guy who is quiet until he throws a childlike tantrum and then quits the group. The choice of Michael Lomenda was just not right. Okay, his last name ends in a vowel leading me to believe he might be Italian. But nothing about him screamed New Jersey, and he just wasn't the dark haired broody beefy doofus. The only word to describe Lomenda was "derpy" and he always made weird derpy faces. Also, he could sing his parts when harmonizing but those crazy low bits here and there were just laughable. He could hit the notes, but it didn't sound good. In my opinion, this was the only bad casting decision. I Googled him and found out that Lomenda played Nick on the first national tour of Jersey Boys. So I'm thinking maybe this was just one of those instances where a stage actor didn't translate well onto screen. BUT I don't know why I didn't feel the same way about Erich Bergen, who played Bob Gaudio, because he was reprising his role from the first national tour as well. And I had no qualms with Bergen's performance.
The one scene that was just bizarre was when the guys are driving in the two cars with the girls. It's a movie so obviously I know green screens are used to create backgrounds and whatnot, but holy shit this was just a terrible scene visually. It was SO fake looking that I just wanted to laugh (or cry... I'm not sure which). The scene was shot looking into through windshield of the convertible and everything except the actors looked stupidly fake. That was one of two scenes in the movie where movie magic didn't work.
I have to talk about the last part where the group comes back together for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance. This was the other scene where movie magic fell short. Making the guys into old men was... not good. Especially John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli). Those prosthetics to make droopy old eyes = yikes. Onstage we can believe this kind of make up because we are not right up close and theater forces us to suspend disbelief. This doesn't work in movies, at least for me. There's not much to say about that other than I didn't like it and it was rather shocking how bad the makeup was.
And now to my absolute favorite part of the whole movie... a part which I know I will get shat on for loving. The curtain call with the credits. I'm sorry, but I loved it so much. I was dancing in my seat. Everyone looked like they were having a great time and we got to hear each of the four guys sing and the choreography just made me feel warm and fuzzy.
So let's sum this all up. I've come to learn in my twenty-two years on this planet that no movie musical will meet my high expectations and I have to think about movie musicals as a totally separate entity from their onstage counterpart. I had to deal with this with Les Mis -- it took me longer to deal with that than Jersey Boys because that movie fell quite flat of my expectations. As someone who doesn't love movies, the one thing that really gets me happy and excited about a film is when I can sit back after and feel as though the cast and crew and creative team really loved the work they put out to the public. It was very apparent that Clint Eastwood saw something in this story that made him want to work on the project, and it was obvious he chose a team of actors that felt the same way. I mean, John Lloyd Young originated this role and he's gone back to play it several times. Now his award winning role is forever immortalized in film.
I have more thoughts but they're small and rather insignificant, and this post is wicked long already. So I'm going to leave it at that. Go see it... or don't. I'll be seeing it again.
Also, if anyone is ever interested in reading about why the other two shows I listed are in my top three, I'd be happy to write a post about my thoughts and feelings on them.