'Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' - if you're from my generation this title rings some sort of vague bell related to music that is better enjoyed by our parents. So, when I first heard about Jersey Boys, a musical based on this mid-60's pop-rock group, it did not, at first, sound very appealing. But after my musical hating (and might I add male) friend rushed out and enthusiastically saw Jersey Boys twice, I knew something pretty magical was taking place on that theatre stage.
Jersey Boys charts the journey of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons from their rough and tough Jersey beginnings through to their international success as one of the world's most well known pop-rock bands. Quite cleverly each band member narrates a segment of the story, giving us the bad boy perspective of lead guitarist Tommy DeVito, insight into the musical genius of keyboardist/backing vocalist Bob Gaudio, a bit of humour from bass singer/bass guitarist Nick Massi and a whole lot of heart from the front man, with the spine tingling falsetto, Frankie Valli. The talented cast ensured each character was unique, engaging and well developed (authentic Jersey accents included).
The script is well tailored with dialogue that is quick, sharp and in perfect balance with the music. The musical features some of their biggest hits, such as 'Oh What A Night', 'Sherry', 'Big Girls Don't Cry', 'Walk Like A Man', 'Bye Bye Baby', 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' and 'My Eyes Adored You'. I was surprised at how many songs I did in fact know and the rendition of 'Can't Take My Eyes off You' left me with goose bumps.
Along with the music, the beauty of Jersey Boys is that it doesn't shy away from or attempt to put bunny ears on the band's shadier moments, such as their promiscuity or renowned criminal history. It stays true to the band's story and does a great job in taking you along for the ride. This is a musical that will have you laughing from the base of your stomach one minute and the next, will have you reaching for a Kleenex. But please note Jersey Boys is not recommended for children under the age of 12 due to the use of strong 'authentic Jersey' language (i.e. lots of swearing) and for those with health concerns herbal cigarettes are smoked on stage.
The choreography is very heightened and stylised, but it fits with this production and stays true to this era of musical history. The scene changes are so smooth that you won't even notice them happening right before your eyes. The set was simple, involving metal scaffolding, minimal props and a screened backdrop for projections. Yet, it was highly effective, with some very clever and original visual moments. It all just highlighted the quality of the script and performers, without stealing the story's spotlight.
Dialogue, music, character, set – it all seems to be in perfect balance in Jersey Boys, running like a well oiled machine and resulting in one slick production. It is a musical that will appeal to young and old equally, bringing with it a bit of nostalgia for the older and great introduction into a very memorable era of music for the younger. There is a reason why this musical has been highly acclaimed, won 4 musical Tony Awards, and why my musical hating friend went running back to see it twice. If there is one musical you see this year it is Jersey Boys - Oh what a magical night you will have!
The Brisbane leg of the Australian tour has just finished but the production will be showing in the Adelaide Festival Centre from October 26, 2012 and in the Princess Theatre, Melbourne from January 10, 2013. For more information on ticketing please visit their website here.