Late last century, biographical juke-box shows splashed onto main-stream stages heralding a new genre of musical. With varying success, they have attempted to appeal to older audiences and attract new ones with a potted history of former stars’ lives, careers and music. The challenge is to hang together an artist’s music catalogue with an engaging story.
Jersey Boys follows this formula faithfully, but where others may have failed, it succeeds wildly. The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice is intelligent, witty, occasionally fruity, and draws fleshed-out characters so often absent from this genre.
The story of 60’s pop sensations Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys is slick, slick, slick! It moves at a cracking pace, barely pausing for breath, so at times it can be hard to keep up and engage with the characters. Bursting with myriad hits, such as Sherry, Walk like a Man and Bye Bye Baby it is a baby boomer’s dream show and an entertaining musical history lesson for X and Yer’s.
The story of the young men’s rise from the tough streets of New Jersey to the stellar heights of stardom, is a long and fascinating one, peppered with tribulations. And the life long sense of brotherhood engendered in the boys from Jersey is a theme throughout. The most interesting strand of the story is the trials of their career trajectory. These boys were petty crims who valued loyalty and “handshake” deals more than business and contracts, and saw the only way out of Jersey was through music. With stubborn determination and phenomenal talent, they went on to have a string of international hits in the 60’s and early 70’s. But not all were able to leave the shady side of their old lives behind and this provides much of the story’s drama.
Vocally, the casting is superb. The perfect blend, harmony and precision of the four voices is quite sublime.
While the vocal stylings of Frankie Valli may not be to everyone’s taste (that falsetto can be harsh!) there is no doubt that Bobby Fox has captured it perfectly. From the gently plaintive My Eyes Adored You to the boppy Working My Way Back to You, Fox is strong, assured and exciting.
As Bob Gaudio, the Season behind the songs and with a good head for business, Stephen Mahy excels. His great looks and vocals are matched by a strong acting performance.
Scott Johnson puts in a fine performance as hustler Tommy De Vito, the founder and glue of the group who eventually becomes unstuck, while Glaston Toft as the fourth season Nick Massi provides some good comic moments in a nicely measured performance.
There are strong supporting performances too, notably from Lisa Adam as Valli’s first wife, Mary and Daniel Scott as the tough but canny record producer Bob Crewe.
But the music is the star of this show and Luke Hunter’s band is not only brilliant at belting out the songs but has captured the Four Season’s style beautifully. From the sassy horn section to Dave Hatch’s marathon drumming performance they never put a foot wrong.
Jersey Boys is a winner; a musical treat which will leave those damn catchy songs bouncing around in your head for days.
Jersey Boys - The Story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Cewe
Directed by Des McAnuff
Venue: Princess Theatre, Melbourne
Dates: From July 4
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 795 012 | ticketek.com.au