Jersey Boys is a night of nostalgia and fantastic music. Ryan Gonzalez (Frankie Valli), Cameron Macdonald (Tommy Devito), Thomas Mcguane (Bob Gaudio) and Glaston Toft (Nick Massi) bring The Four Seasons to life and lead us through the highlights (and lows) of their career.
Jersey Boys tells the story of the band from the early years, when Tommy Devito recruits a young Frankie Castellucio, through their volatile years as The Four Seasons, and into Frankie’s solo career. The audience were transported to the era through the music, sets and costumes, and responded to each musical performance like they were at a Four Seasons concert. The performances of The Four Seasons major hits, such as ‘Sherry’, ‘Walk Like a Man’, and ‘O, What a Night’ were amazing. Gonzalez nailed Frankie’s range and unique sound. How closely the cast matched the sound of the original band was almost eerie, and a tribute to Luke Hunter’s Musical Direction.
I was less comfortable with the sound in the songs from the early years. Compared to early recordings of Valli, it seemed that the issues with ‘young’ Frankie’s untrained voice were exaggerated. This direction does make sense however as another tool to show the passage of time, and demonstrate how Frankie Valli’s talent developed with Nick Massi’s assistance and as he gained performance experience. There were a few brief moments where there were some issues with balance between the vocal and the instruments, especially with female voices, and in the first song of Act 2, when all of the lyrics were incomprehensible. However these were the exceptions, not the rule, and overall the sound was excellent.
Scenic design was created by Klara Zieglerova. The sets were minimal, with the show opening to a sparse stage, set with scaffolding and cyclone fencing. Combined with the silhouette of power lines and an industrial horizon, this sets the environment for their blue collar early years in New Jersey. Throughout the show, each scene is set with minimal reliance on set changes. The odd table, bench, or bed is wheeled on and offstage by the cast as they leave or arrive on stage, or descends from the fly’s – the glass wall of a sound booth glides in from above to create their recording studio. The changes are smooth and never distract from the story.
Location specifics are often provided by signage in the background, as many of the scenes are set at the various clubs they played. Less literal imagery is also projected in the background, such as Pop Art imagery to support the story in the song lyrics. The Lichtenstein style crying female clearly illustrated ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, but the relevance of some of the images were more obscure.
Costume design, by Jess Goldstein, also helps to set the scene and transport the audience to the appropriate decade. The band changed jackets to reflect their various incarnations before settling on The Four Seasons, and the style and skirt length of the costumes of the female cast provide a timeline.
The early part of the show focuses on the dynamic, confident Tommy Devito, played very convincingly by Macdonald. Musician, yes, but also small time crook with mob connections. The narrative style of the show is set with Devito sharing his plans and explanations to the audience between musical numbers. This later continues with Valli, and then Gaudio.
Massi briefly gets to explain from his viewpoint in the latter part of the show. The narration gives the characters the opportunity to share their motivations, and demonstrate how participants always have different versions of any situation. Gonzalez shows real development in his character as Valli goes from young and naïve, always following Devito’s lead, to a man who stands behind his conviction to never “forget where you come from”.
McGuane does a great job of demonstrating Gaudio’s confidence in his talent, and his true friendship to Valli. Toft gets to provide the only brief moments of comedy in the show, with his characters oft repeated thoughts of starting his own band, and his out of character dramatic outburst about the hellish existence of sharing a room with Tommy Devito for ten years. Together these four performers bring one of America’s favourite bands to life and share their story with us, while entertaining with their unique and amazing sound.
Jersey Boys is now playing at the Regent Theatre. For more details: https://jerseyboys.com.au/
Photo Credit: Jeff Busby