It began life at the La Jolla Playhouse at the University of California in 2004. Since that time, more than 24 million people across the world have seen Jersey Boys.
Now the 12th longest-running musical in Broadway history, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has picked up 64 honours and audience awards globally. The Australian and New Zealand premiere production, which opened in Melbourne in 2009, played to 1.6 million people over four years and picked up the 2010 Helpmann Award for Best Musical.
A little more than five years after the curtain fell on that season, Jersey Boys has returned to Australia in a new production that opened last week at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. Led by Jersey Boys’ original Broadway director, Des McAnuff, the production will head to Brisbane in January and then onto Melbourne in late February.
For those new to the juggernaut that is Jersey Boys, this is the true story of American pop band The Four Seasons who, in 1962, released the number one hit ‘Sherry’, marking the beginning of a staggeringly successful career. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band has since sold over 175 million records and amassed an enviable catalogue of hit records that are instantly recognisable the world over (among them are ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, Walk Like a Man’, and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’).
But the success that the foursome found was far from instant. In fact, it came after a years-long slog for the boys from New Jersey, during which time the band changed their name several times and released a number of tracks to little, if any, fanfare. The group’s composition also changed over a number of years. When they climbed to the top of the US Billboard Chart in 1962, it was frontman Frankie Valli (Ryan Gonzalez), Tommy DeVito (Cameron MacDonald), Bob Gaudio (Thomas McGuane) and Nick Massi (Glaston Toft) who made up The Four Seasons. Even then, the four men only performed together for a mere few years after ‘Sherry’ hit the charts. The events that transpired around the group’s burgeoning career make for an incredible story – a story of prison stints, of links to the Mafia, of marital and familial breakdown and of enormous debt. The show documents the journey of a band whose legacy has endured for six decades.
Almost a decade and a half since Jersey Boys’ world premiere, the musical remains a shining example of the fine work that can be accomplished within the biopic jukebox genre. With a sharply-written book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and underscored by the group’s best-known tracks, it’s an enormously entertaining account of four men climbing out of lives of little opportunity to cement their place in pop music history. McAnuff ensures a brisk pace is maintained and that much of their story – and their music – is packed into the 155-minute musical.
Leading the cast on opening night, Gonzalez is a natural fit for the role of Valli, wonderfully recreating the singer’s distinctive head voice. He convincingly portrays Valli’s development from awkward and wide-eyed teen to a man who has well and truly found his voice. Gonzalez’s ample dance skills are also an asset, his Frankie moving with a natural ease through each and every song performance.
Similarly, as The Four Seasons’ founding member and lead guitarist, MacDonald doesn’t miss a beat. As DeVito, he’s brash and big-headed, and oozes presence. His is a confident performance, and that’s imperative in ensuring the production is on steady ground from the outset.
Returning to a role he originated in Australia almost a decade ago, Toft is just as good the second time around, taking on the bass-playing man of few words, Nick Massi, responsible for the group’s vocal arrangements and who arguably gets less credit for their success than he deserves. Completing the foursome, McGuane lends a youthful naivety to his performance as the band’s keyboardist and songwriter, Gaudio, that serves the character well. There’s something about the character that never completely gels with his bandmates, and that’s effectively depicted here.
There’s also a solid supporting cast and a tight six-piece band led by Luke Hunter, vibrantly recreating each of the excellent Four Seasons standards, and Sergio Trujillo’s choreographic choices ensure nothing feels inauthentic or out of place in the era.
Many shows have come and gone since Jersey Boys’ last Australian outing, but this timeless musical remains deserving of a place on our stages because of its compelling against-the-odds story of the remarkable rise to stardom of four working-class men and their indelible contribution to contemporary music. Combining some of pop’s catchiest songs with a slickly performed and delivered production, Jersey Boys is still a winner.
JERSEY BOYS – SYDNEY SEASON DETAILS
Tickets: From $69.90*
Dates: Playing now until Sunday 9 December, 2018
Performance Times**: Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday 7pm; Friday 8pm; Saturday 2pm & 8pm Sunday 2pm & 6.30pm (additional Wednesday 1pm matinees have been added from 17 October)
* Subject to availability. A transaction fee from $8.55 per booking applies. Price based on C Reserve Tuesday to Thursday evening performances
** Performance schedule is subject to change
BRISBANE SEASON DETAILS
Tickets: from $69.90*
Dates: Previews from Wednesday 2 January, 2019
Performance Times**: Wednesday 1pm & 6.30pm; Thursday & Friday 7.30pm; Saturday 2pm & 7.30pm; Sunday 1pm & 6.30pm
*Subject to availability. $69.90 price is based on C reserve tickets on Wed – Thurs & Sun 6:30pm performances, and an additional transaction fee of $7.20 per order applies.
**Performance schedule subject to change. Wednesday 02 January 7.30pm only
MELBOURNE SEASON DETAILS
Tickets: from $69.90*
Dates: Preview from Saturday 23 February, 2019
*Subject to availability. $69.90 price is based on C reserve tickets on Tuesday – Thursday performances, and an additional transaction fee of $8.90 per order applies.