Oh what a night… Tommy, Bobby, Nick and Frankie on their way [by James Wenley]
Len Brown announced at a press conference this morning at the Civic Theatre’s Wintergarden that the smash hit international musical Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, will be coming to Auckland in April 2012.
Jersey Boys is a key part of the Mayor’s dream of the new Supercity becoming a true “events and show city” and driving tourism to Auckland nationally and internationally. Aucklanders shouldn’t have to go to Australia to see the latest hit shows, and Brown wants to attract more here.
Len Brown admits he hasn’t seen Jersey Boys yet, but looks forward to seeing and supporting it. It has been playing in Melbourne and Sydney over the last two years, and while Brown was tempted to go, he’s glad he waited.
Like many New Zealanders, I have made the trip over the ditch to see the latest musicals. At the end of 2009 I went to Melbourne and Sydney expressly to see Jersey Boys and Wicked respectively. While I knew a lot about Wicked and had wanted to see it for some time, I went into Jersey Boys completely fresh. I was blown away, and I’d rate it as one of the best feel-good musical experiences I’ve had.
I’m the wrong generation to know anything about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, though as I sat in the theatre I found myself tapping along to wall-to-wall hits and familiar songs. As producer Rodney Rigby expressed at the press conference, you might not know who Frankie Valli is, but you’ll know the songs.
Jersey Boys is a spectacle, and a must for fans of musicals and good music. The show, a ‘musical biopic’ of the band is a classic rags-to-riches story about making it big and the problems of fame and staying true to where you came from. The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice is witty, and told in a dry Jersey style. The music numbers (‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Can’t take my eyes Off You’ and ‘Oh, what a night’ among them) are performed in both a traditional musical theatre way, but also concert style, the four singers with amazing voices and musicality wowing us right at the edge of the stage. My Melbourne Jersey Boys experience was an emotional and rousing one, and I often listen to the show album that I bought immediately. I’m very excited that I’ll be able to see the show again in Auckland, and I hope that most of the superb cast I saw will still be in the show, especially Bobby Fox's Frankie.
Len Brown gave a very impassioned and impressive speech about his hopes for Auckland as an event destination. He held up Melbourne as a study, which now is an international tourist destination thanks in part for being the Southern Hemisphere home of big musical theatre shows. Encouragingly, Brown said he loved not only the Civic Theatre, but the moth-balled St James, and a dream to create a real theatre district in Auckland. Make it happen Len.
Jersey Boys is a huge economic investment for the producers and the Auckland Council. Jersey Boys will run for 10-11 weeks, almost unheard of in Auckland, and will need 200,000+ people make the numbers work. Tourists accounted for 38% of Jersey Boy’s Melbourne’s box office, and 42% for Sydney’s, and Auckland will be hoping for similar numbers. The old Auckland council had been burnt in the past by musicals underperforming here (My Fair Lady was a notable black hole) though have had some success (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, now playing on Broadway, broke box office records).
Producer Rigby clearly sees the potential for Jersey Boys in Auckland to “capitalise the national market”. He saw the show on Broadway, where the audience gave the show a standing ovation after only the first half. He took the show to Australia, but he said that after Melbourne and Sydney, Auckland was the third city he wanted to go to. Compare this to Wicked, which is now on a regional tour of Australia with no New Zealand season in sight.
Professional musical theatre has been almost non-existent this year at the Civic (only two ‘pro-amateur’ productions, and a Andrew Lloyd Webber concert), and I really hope that Jersey Boys is just the start of attracting big name shows here to the end of the world.
Curiously, not that long ago I received an email survey from The Edge asking ‘Which musicals would you like to come to New Zealand?’. “It’s planning time here at THE EDGE, and we would really like to understand which international musicals you would most like to see us bring to New Zealand.” The list contained not only Jersey Boys, but a diverse and exciting selection of current shows including The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Wicked, Rock of Ages, The Addams Family, Sister Act, Hairspray, Legally Blonde and Spamalot. Come on Auckland!
Keep updated with Jersey Boys at http://www.jerseyboysnz.co.nz/