From the book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
Director Des McAnuff
Photographer Jeff Busby
Capitol Theatre Sydney
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
It doesn’t seem that it was eight years since I saw Jersey Boys at the Theatre Royal, and several weeks later experienced the real Frankie Valli who, at age 77, hit all of those notes. That amazing concert still looms large in my memory.
So now Jersey Boys is back in town and it opened to rousing ovations at the Capitol Theatre; deservedly so, even though there were questions at the start.
Were we in the right theatre when two rappers emerged, one wearing his baseball cap on backwards and the other sporting the crooked cap look? They performed “Ces Soirées-La”, a French rap singer’s version of “Oh What a Night”. I could only assume that the intention was to juxtapose the severity of rap music with the charm and nostalgia of music from the early 1960s or that even rappers admire the music so much that they record their own version.
The storyline follows the progress of four young men who sang on street corners in a poor part of town and possessed a passion for music that propelled them to the top of their game. This is a warts and all biography that Frankie Valli said is “95% accurate”. Tommy DeVito’s substantial financial debts that were taken on by the group and management and family issues provide a balance to the successes.
There was quite a slow build with numerous songs lesser known and not associated with Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, but as soon as we heard the opening to “Sherry” a wave of relief and jubilation swept over the expectant audience. It was on.
“Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)”, “My Eyes Adored You”, “Dawn”, “Stay”, “Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got)”, “Bye Bye Baby”, “Working My Way Back to You”, “Rag Doll”, “Who Loves You?”; all of our favourites were there. Even if you weren’t around in between 1960 and 1969 you will probably identify and be able to sing along with most of those classics.
Don’t expect the performers to resemble their original counterparts. The real Frankie Valli didn’t ever sport the 1960s retro Mad Men haircut and the 6’2” Bob Gaudio was significantly taller than the other members of the group. The fact is that in this production, they don’t need to be physical imitations, such are the production values and talent of the performers.
With his red hair, Cameron MacDonald looks far from being of Italian heritage but he absolutely nails the flawed character of Tommy DeVito. Thomas McGuane is solid and likeable as the humble, non-confrontational musical genius Bob Gaudio, as is Glaston Toft as the deep-thinking, quietly-spoken Nick Massi, the self-confessed “Ringo of the group”. All of their vocals are excellent.
Of course, all eyes were on Ryan Gonzalez as the legendary Frankie Valli. Gonzalez’ voice is so good that after his brilliant rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, he was clearly moved, humbled and grateful for the audience’s massive reaction. He briefly broke the fourth wall and took a bow with his hand on his heart. The performance of that one song prompted its own curtain call.
The creative team that consists of Director Des McAnuff, Musical Supervisor Ron Melrose and Choreographer Sergio Trujillo provides a beautifully slick and spectacular platform for the eighteen onstage performers.
Do yourself a favour and catch Jersey Boys and you’ll be leaving the Capitol Theatre wearing a smile and you’ll be humming those songs for days.