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"Jersey Boys," "Zooma Zooma" and "The Goat"

The touring production of Jersey Boys continues at Shea's until May 9.

The national tour of Jersey Boys at Shea’s is everything you could possibly want it to be—energetic, passionate, visually stunning, and musically uplifting. The story of how four young guys from New Jersey overcame obstacles and personal strife to hit the top of the pop charts and achieved recording immortality as the Four Seasons is brilliantly told and marvelously affecting. And the touring cast is first rate.

Charismatic Joseph Leo Bwarie (rhymes with Sherry) has star power in his own right, and tears up the stage as Frankie Valli. He’s handsome, he’s graceful, he’s a terrific actor—and he really does sing like an angel. He is matched by Matt Bailey as Tommy DeVito, Steve Gouveia as Nick Massi, and Ryan Jesse as Bob Gaudio.

Directed by Stratford Festival artistic director Des McAnuff, Jersey Boys owes a debt to Buffalo’s Michael Bennett for its dramatic style and the fluidity of its storytelling. Scenes blend from one to the next almost magically.

The three women in the production, Sarah Darling, Kara Tremel, and Buffalo’s own Denise Payne, seem like a hundred women as they go through dozens of fast changes and breakneck turnarounds to create the family life and show-business world of the Four Seasons. This show must be just as astounding to watch from backstage as it is from the audience.

Best of all, Jersey Boys gives thrilling renditions of the Four Seasons’ most familiar hits, and places them in thrilling dramatic context—“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man”—and the 11 o’clock number, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” sends us soaring.

Zooma Zooma

Long before there was a name for “jukebox musicals,” those shows that pull tunes from the pop charts, MusicalFare was inventing them. One of their best, Zooma Zooma, a musical homage to Louis Prima, is back for a return engagement, with most of its original cast. This is a tour de force role for Norm Sham, whose ability to channel the effervescence of Prima is extraordinary. This is a delightful revue of relentlessly upbeat music—even a ballad becomes upbeat when Louis Prima casts his spell—and an inspired invention of Jim Runfola and Michael Walline, who provides the whimsical choreography.

Michele Marie Roberts is transcendent in this show, giving winning and winsome performances of such tunes as “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” and “Stormy Weather.” Wendy Hall is excellent as the evening’s leading lady, frequently paired with Sham. Marc Sacco, Angela Sauers, and Doug Weyand are also excellent. The interplay between performers is reminiscent of the legendary banter and affection within the original Ain’t Misbehavin’ cast, which will always set the standard for revues of this variety. It comes as no surprise that this show has already been extended through the end of May.

The Goat

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, is just the sort of play that reminds us what makes Edward Albee, Edward Albee. Fifteen or so years ago, some short-sighted critics were writing off the visionary playwright who penned Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance (and Zoo Story and Seascape) as a has-been. He shamed them all by weighing in with a fast succession of plays that would have been the hallmarks of any career entirely on their own—Three Tall Women, The Play about the Baby, and The Goat among them.

These are difficult plays to perform and thrilling plays to watch. Road Less Travelled has taken on The Goat, their current offering. The play challenges audiences to face social taboos and their own sense of ethics and morality as they watch a marriage threatened when the husband falls in love with a goat. Yes, literally, a goat. And not the way you might love your dog—but with the full-throttled passion one is expected to reserve for one’s wife. Ewwww.

Consequences of Greek proportion ensue.

I saw the original Broadway production twice in 2002, once with Mercedes Ruehl in the leading role, and the second time with Sally Field. Each time was a riveting, unforgettable and an entirely different experience. Maggie Zindle plays the role in Buffalo. I see it this week. I can’t wait.