Saturday 4 July 2009

Jersey Boys, July 4, 2009, ****1/2

 Jersey Boys
Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice, music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe
Where and When: Princess Theatre, from July 4, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on July 4, 2009
Stars: ****&1/2

Published in Herald Sun, Melbourne
JERSEY BOYS stormed onto the stage at the Princess Theatre and had the opening night VIP crowd – including the Victorian Premier – cheering, stompin’ and dancin’ by its finale.

It’s a bio-play that follows the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, four Italo-American boys from New Jersey who created a distinctive sound that featured Frankie’s exceptional three and a half octave range, Bob Gaudio’s songs and four part harmonies.

What makes this show such a huge success? It’s the quality songs, the story of four boys from the wrong side of the tracks, Des McAnuff’s production, the script (Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice), the versatile, industrial design (Klara Zieglerova) and, finally, the performers who breathe new life into those four young men. That’s a recipe for first class entertainment.

Biographical shows do not necessarily follow the normal dramatic arc, but Brickman and Elice shape the show by dividing it into four seasons or four parts, just like the harmonies.

Spring is Tommy DeVito’s season. Scott Johnson is deliciously mischievous and full-voiced as the tough, ambitious, working class boy who teeters on the edge of petty crime. Without Tommy’s relentless drive to be a star and get out of Jersey, without his boys singing under a street lamp, Frankie (Bobby Fox), Bobby (Stephen Mahy) and Nick (Glaston Toft), the original Four Seasons, would never have existed.

Summer is Bobby’s time and Mahy embodies Gaudio’s intelligence, musical talent and charm. Bobby’s incomparable tunes including Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man, launched the band’s career. Mahy is a formidable talent with his Brad Pitt looks, bright, clear vocal tones and acting skill.

Nick Massi, Tommy’s childhood pal and fellow petty crim, is the voice of Fall. Toft replicates Nick’s resonant, bass vocal tones and sense of style and we learn of Nick’s extraordinary ear for harmonies and musical arrangements.

The final season is Frankie’s, although Winter is no way to describe Valli’s still active career. The impish, charismatic Bobby Fox, although Irish, bears a striking resemblance to Frankie, and his upper register and falsetto has echoes of the timbre of Frankie’s beautiful, idiosyncratic voice. Fox captures Frankie’s emotional style, passionate commitment to life and loyalty and his compulsion to keep the band together.

The ensemble and band are outstanding as are principals Daniel Scott as producer-lyricist, Bob Crewe, and Enrico Mammarella as Gyp DeCarlo. But it is the thrilling combination of four male voices that rivets us with tunes including Oh What A Night, Let’s Hang On, Bye Bye Baby and Working My Way Back to You. And the finale of Who Loves You is heart stopping.

By Kate Herbert

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