By: Kristen Becker
I’ve always had a slight fascination with theatre critics. It’s such a subjective thing, that criticism. I’ve never been an “actor” per se, but I have extensive experience working backstage on the technical side of things. Mix that with my years as a performer/producer, and it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe I could offer a unique eye to theater productions. Rarely does someone who is a backstage techie also step onstage and perform (I bet it would make a great show, TECHIES: The Musical), I hope that I can provide some professional insight on each production I get a chance to check out.
While I’ve been writing for awhile, this is my first published “review,” so for extra support I brought my Mom to the show; I figured the songs of Jersey Boys were from her era and maybe she could add some insight. In an effort to encourage me in my new endeavor she asked, “No offense honey…” (any sentence that begins with “no offense” ends up offensive, BTW) “…but how are you going to review music from before you were born?”
I explained that while the music was a little before my time, my father made me listen to all the oldies, and even played a little “Name That Tune” in the car on the way to school. Besides, I was there to give my opinion on the production, as the music itself clearly stands on its own.
Her fears we’re squelched immediately. It became clear that this was going to be a peek into the lives of The Four Seasons, and anything I didn’t know before I would learn in the next couple of hours. By the end of the show I was as familiar with Tommy, Nick, Bob and Frankie as I was with Jordon, Donny, Danny, Jon and Little Joe McIntyre in the nineties.
It was as if I was watching a REALLY GOOD live version of the VH-1 show, Behind the Music. The four actors in the lead roles nailed the rock show feel with every number. All thirty-three. That’s right, thirty three musical numbers, and a show that spans forty some odd years. The only way to put that much into a show and explore that many years without losing your audience is through meticulous execution. This production is fast paced, so much so that every cast member doubled as a crew member. At every turn set pieces were flying in, scrims were moving, and cast members were wheeling in props. The entire cast should be commended for the teamwork displayed onstage. It’s not as easy as they made it look.
I found that reviewing something like a touring Broadway musical isn’t that difficult. Let’s face it these are the best of the best at what they do. No half-ass performances, no amateur mistakes. I’m sure there are “off nights” but I doubt any audience member would ever be able to pick that up.
There was ONE minor technical point that I feel I should point out, a microphone issue. Understand that I am only pointing this out to advise audience members that in today’s world most microphone issues, no offense, are usually the fault of the audience. When Shea’s, and most of the other theaters in our area were constructed, the cell phone wasn’t even a twinkle in Bell’s eye. Every time you enter a theater I want you to think that every person has a cell phone, and every phone has an imaginary line from the satellite in the sky down to their purse or pants pocket. Think of how many people are sitting in Shea’s on any given night.
Now picture the actors pouring their hearts into their performance and their little sound waves trying to weave past all your incoming text messages*, emails and phone calls. Tricky, eh? Check it at intermission and enjoy your time with the arts. Farmville will be there when you get out.
Bravo to the cast, the writers and the crew for a remarkable show. If I believed in rating systems, it would be four out of Four Seasons (Sorry, the “star” rating system was taken).
*texting was allowed at the Saturday night performance I attended. I also wanted to know the Sabres score.
For more information on Jersey Boys got to www.Sheas.org.
Becker is a comedian who started
her comedy career in Toronto 8 years ago, and since then has traveled
the continent performing and producing shows. She has opened for
national acts such as Doug Stanhope, Josh Blue (Winner of Last Comic
Standing), and Ani DiFranco. Additionally, Kristen beat out 60
contestants (all men) to win the 2006 Queen City Comedy Competition.
Becker was recently named “One of America’s Funniest Lesbians” by CURVE
Magazine, in a tie for #8 with Lily Tomlin. Locally, Becker has been
producing/hosting the Doin’ Time
Stand-Up Comedy Showcase at Nietzsche’s
every Tuesday in Buffalo for the last 4 years.