Big Girls Don’t Cry.
Sherry.
Can’t Take My Eye’s Off Of You.

If you don’t know the musical Jersey Boys, it’s a certainty that you will know and love the songs of the show. The musical follows the fascinating true story of four blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks who became one of the greatest successes in pop-music history: The Four Seasons. CLOC Music Theatre open their season of Jersey Boys on May 13th, and the cast can’t get enough of the music.

“I can’t wait for audiences to see ‘My Boyfriends Back’ “, says Jonathon Shilling who plays the role of Bob Gaudio. “It’s such a great number, and the girls performing it are just complete powerhouses. Kirra [Sibel] has done a fantastic job with the choreography for the entire show, there is just something inherent to this number that I truly love. The energy is insane, I love watching it in rehearsals so I can’t wait to see it onstage with the set and costumes!”.

Will Hanley (playing Frankie Valli) continues Shilling’s sentiment. “The songs are a joy to sing, and I love the challenge of moving from jazz to pop to rock to soul”, comments Hanely. “I’m also really enjoying scenes with Mel Ott (Mary) and Lucinda Barratt (Lorraine). Strong female characters are central to this piece, and Mel and Lucinda have been brilliant to work with and learn from”.


Jersey Boys might be a jukebox musical, but the songs more than serve the narrative. “The structure of the show is very different from others that I’ve performed in before”, says Robbie Wilton, who is portraying the role of Tommy DeVito. “The show is a vignette-like structure of a movie. It requires an actor to be flexible and jump straight in and out of new scenes, songs, narration to the audience in an agile way”. Hanley reflected on how some people might be “turned off by ‘jukebox musicals’, but Jersey Boys is a true story (although somewhat dramatised) and is told from the perspective of the people who were actually there. The show is constantly moving, you’ll know more songs than you think, the staging, music direction, choreography, sets and costumes are brilliant, and you’ll love the story”.

With the show being based on people from real life, the key players of The Four Seasons have found challenges and similarities in bringing these characters to the stage. Tom Morley took a moment to reflect upon this: “Nick Massi’s a unique character amongst the Four Seasons – often a man of few words with a highly-active internal narrative and somewhat cynical world-view. I’m yet to decide if it’s a bad thing, but there are a number of similarities between Nick and myself that drew me to his character”. Wilton has solid respect for his character of Tommy DeVito. “Tommy can talk his way in or out of absolutely anything”, says Wilton. “He holds nothing back and is true to himself 100% of the time. It’s both his strength and his weakness. I always admire anyone who is authentic to themselves at all times, however unfortunately in Tommy’s case, his brazen, bullheadedness is what lands him in trouble”.

Jersey Boys has been in and out of professional seasons in Australia since 2009, so it will be well known to some in the audience. But don’t think there aren’t any surprise in store when you book to see CLOC’s Jersey Boys. Hanley offers, “The opening number is just wonderful, and I’m sure a few people will think they’re at the wrong show in the first five minutes”. With a wry smile, Morley adds, “Audiences might be surprised by just how many jackets a single costume department can have!”

Like many theatre companies, CLOC have had to navigate the past two years with Covid restrictions making rehearsing more than the usual challenge. “I’d be lying if I was to say that the pandemic hasn’t made things more interesting than usual”, says Morley. “We’ve had to accommodate a prolonged rehearsal period with lockdown hiatuses, rehearsing over videoconferencing and the numerous requirements for the return to face-to-face rehearsals (masks, social distancing, QR codes etc). It’s been tough at times, but overall, it’s still been an enjoyable journey!” For Wilton, the pandemic has brought an added poignance to his portrayal of Tommy DeVito – “I absolutely want to honour Tommy Devito’s legacy. I feel like we’ve all been largely affected by the pandemic. Tommy Devito lost his life to COVID in 2020. I hope my portrayal is one he’d be proud of”.


Shilling, Wilton, Morley and Hanley have all been working very closely as preparations wind their way into the final weeks of rehearsal, but they each have their own way of getting ready to step out onto the stage for a performance. Shilling was kind enough to share with us his personal ritual: “When I’m performing in a show, there are two things I have to do before every performance. I have to listen to the overture from The Phantom of the Opera – it just pumps me up! I’m also a massive Taylor Swift fan so I have to also listen to my favourite song by her, which is ‘Sparks Fly’. Both these things I have been doing since before drama school and they have stuck with me!”

CLOC’s Jersey Boys opens at the National Theatre in St Kilda on May 13th and runs through to May 28th. Tickets are available to purchase at www.cloc.org.au

 

Article by Maxine Montgomery