'Jersey Boys' transfixes eyes and ears at Fair Park Music Hall

Written by DSM Columnists on Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, July 26, 2008
By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News
ltaitte@dallasnews.com
View this article on their website here


Talk about a buildup: We are two-thirds of the way through the first act of Jersey Boys before the Four Seasons come together for their first big hit. When "Sherry" finally does erupt, it's as if a skyscraper-sized bottle of champagne exploded.
The 2006 Tony Award winner for best musical opened at the Dallas Summer Musicals on Friday (after a couple of previews). The show doesn't miss a beat in its transfer from Broadway to the road. You've probably never heard the names of any of the performers, but no matter. Jersey Boys doesn't need stars, it creates them.
Marshall Brickman and Rick Ellice wrote one of the all-time great show librettos in telling the story of four working-class Italian boys who became one of the most successful musical groups ever. Take that example of the long buildup: Hearing the cover songs the boys sang as they established their career gives the tale a context. So do the pop-art and video projections Michael Clark designed for Klara Zieglerova's ingenious set.
Each of the four group members narrates – and dominates – a quarter of the show. Tommy DeVito (Erik Bates) is the deal maker – and corner cutter, stealing when he needs to and gambling away his earnings during the good times. The baby-faced Bob Gaudio (Andrew Rannells) writes the music and doesn't really feel part of the neighborhood. In his segment, Mr. Rannells proves that white bread can be charismatic and nearly steals the show.
Nick Massi (Steve Gouveia), the quiet one, gets tired of touring and wants to go back home. Of course, the frontman is Frankie Valli (Joseph Leo Bwarie). Tommy treats him like a lowly kid brother, but Bob knows that that strange, high-flying voice is the one he was destined to write for.
After intermission, we see the group falling apart. The emergence of Frankie's solo career is the second act's trajectory – and once again the build to the huge hit "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" is tremendously exciting.
Director Des McAnuff wove all the elements of Jersey Boys into a swirling, precisely choreographed showpiece that keeps on gaining momentum. Entertainment doesn't get any slicker – or more accomplished.
PLAN YOUR LIFE Through Aug. 16 at Fair Park Music Hall. Runs 155 mins. $25 to $124. Ticketmaster at 214-631-2787, www.ticketmaster.com.

'High School Musical' the class favorite at Fair Park Music Hall

Written by DSM Columnists on Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

7/3/2008 12:00AM CST
The Dallas Morning News
'High School Musical' the class favorite at Fair Park Music Hall

By JOY TIPPING

View article on their website here

Whatever its artistic merits, Disney's High School Musical has accomplished something special at the Music Hall at Fair Park: throngs of children and teens lined up, giddy with excitement over live theater. We're talking jumping up and down with glee.
The kids even got into a "dress for the theater" spirit – cute sundresses with matching tights and color-coordinated sneakers for the girls, nice pants and shirts for the boys. Frankly, I've rarely seen adults dressed that well for Dallas theater, or that well-behaved.
HSM takes its spot in the pantheon of musical theater as the place where theater geekdom becomes the epitome of cool. It's the theatrical version of the fair midway: full of flash and frivolity, color and movement, with all the substance of cotton candy. But honestly, when you're having that much sheer fun, who needs substance?
For those who've been watching only HBO for the last couple of years, HSM (which began as a movie on the Disney Channel) tells the story of "freaky math girl" Gabriella Montez (played by Arielle Jacobs) and "playmaker dude" basketball star Troy Bolton (John Jeffrey Martin). They bond over a summer-break karaoke session and then meet again when Gabriella transfers to Troy's digs, Albuquerque's East High School.
Much to the disdain of their respective cliques, Gabriella and Troy both secretly long for stardom of a different sort: the title roles in the winter musical, Juliet and Romeo, a "delicious neofeminist adaptation ... with three tap numbers!" as drama teacher Ms. Darbus (a wickedly funny Ellen Harvey) describes it.
Tension, trauma and many musical numbers ensue, and of course everything works out in the end for the big finale of "We're All in This Together."
This is a true ensemble show, with no breakout star roles, although Ms. Jacobs and Mr. Martin show warmth, charisma and decent voices as Gabriella and Troy. Heléne Yorke also stands out as the irritating Sharpay, the school's drama queen – in more ways than one – who has a tinny, screechy voice that perfectly matches the bark of her namesake dog.
This isn't Les Misérables, or even Grease (which it resembles somewhat). But it's a genuinely sweet-spirited, infectiously enjoyable reason for the whole family to see theater together – without once making the parents cringe.Plan your life
Through July 13 at Fair Park Music Hall, $18.50 to $78.50. 214-631-2787, http://www.dallassummermusicals.org/.