“It’s clear this theater isn’t used to rock concerts,” Nick Jonas roared from the stage. “The spotlights can’t hit us because you’re all standing.”
He was right: Broadway’s Marquis Theater, which has housed acclaimed but not quite foot-stomping, hip-shaking productions of musicals like “Tootsie” and “Beetlejuice,” isn’t accustomed to two hours of 1,600 jumping, screaming fans. Yet the venue’s infrastructure will be put to the test during the Jonas Brothers’ five-night residency from March 14-18. (We ask this with love: Can the mezzanine support five nights of bouncing concert-goers?)
Photo: Cole Gentry
Night one of the limited engagement — wherein each show focuses on one album, in order of release — took the audience all the way back to the aughts with their 2007 self-titled album “Jonas Brothers” and successfully kicked off the week of performances. The residency continues through Saturday with “A Little Bit Longer” (2008), “Lines, Vines, and Trying Times” (2009) and “Happiness Begins (2019)” before culminating with the first live performance of the band’s newest album, “The Album,” which dropped May 12.
On that note, “We are obviously not good at coming up with [album] names,” Joe Jonas joked after the trio tore through some of their earliest hits, “S.O.S.” and “Hold on.” And although it’s been more than 15 years since Nick, Kevin and Joe revisited some of the songs that turned them into superstars, there were only two tells: Their pants were a little looser, and their voices are a lot stronger.
Photo: Cole Gentry
They brought a rock swagger to Broadway, keeping the crowd on their feet for the entirety of the show — minus the 15-minute intermission (it’s on Broadway, after all) — as they launched into “That’s Just the Way We Roll,” “Hello Beautiful” and “Australia.” But whether they were playing a pop anthem or a ballad, the crowd’s energy never wavered: That’s in part because, if you haven’t heard the JoBros early discography in a while, a surprising number of tracks encourage the audience to clap along. And of their six albums, “Jonas Brothers” arguable has the most recognizable songs, so the audience needed no invitation to lose their voice by screaming along to every track.
“Some of these songs, we haven’t played in 13-14 years,” Nick teased, “so if we mess up…”
Kevin finished his younger brother’s thought — “We’re sorry.”
But if there were mistakes, they were obscured by the memories that the songs, mostly about young love and first kisses, brought back for the audience and brothers alike. The show was filled with charming anecdotes about where and when the three wrote the album’s songs, and kicked off with a dramatic reading by other three actors from the group’s unreleased memoir, “The Book.”
“We’re going to take you through our journey,” Nick promised, “which you are all very much a part of.”
It’s not entirely clear why the brothers opted to perform this series on Broadway, when they certainly could have sold out bigger venues on consecutive nights — “This is very intimate space for a Jonas Brothers show,” Joe observed. “It feels quite nice.” — But the coziness proved a treat to the fans, allowing the trio to banter with the crowd, and each other, and experiment vocally in ways that may not have worked in larger rooms. “I just love your voice,” Joe offered to Nick after he took some well-received creative liberties on the ballad “Hello Beautiful.”
Photo: Cynthia Parkhurst
For Nick, the night marked a homecoming of sorts because he previously performed in “Annie Get Your Gun” at the Marquis Theatre with Reba McEntire in 2001. For Joe, it was a return to the stage for the first time since 2002’s “La Boheme.” And for Kevin, the evening served as his Broadway debut.
“You’re doing great so far,” Joe assured him.
“Thanks,” Kevin said to roaring applause. “I’m nervous.”
Inevitably, the evening was largely about nostalgia — although there was a comically anachronistic moment when, before the intermission, Nick encouraged the audience to “get drunk” — something he certainly couldn’t have condoned in 2007 to their almost entirely teenage fanbase. And for the closer, the group shifted into the present by playing newer hits like “What a Man Gotta Do,” “Jealous” and “Sucker” — and geared up for four more nights of rocking down memory lane.