[Oh What a Night]
Oh what a night indeed… the Jersey Boys are in town and are hell bent on giving us an all-singing all-dancing extravaganza at the Civic.
Deftly covering their unscrupulous upbringing and overlapping life events, Jersey Boys is narrated from each members’ unique perspective. To quote one of the Four Season’s Tommy DeVito, “…You ask four guys, you get four different answers.”
Starting in the seedy New Jersey neighbourhoods where they grew up, the story reveals numerous questionable incidents that are far from the Four Seasons’ clean-cut image portrayed to the fans. The show is basically about loyalty – centred around four kids growing up and overcoming the unexpected problems that life dishes out – both self-inflicted and unavoidable. Their shared experiences form a bond between these young teenagers that ultimately, and tragically breaks – with the original band members parting ways. And the harsh reality of their limited prospects to escape, further augments their tenacity to overcome, and become a phenomenal success.
US national Hayden Milanés is perfectly cast as Frankie Valli. Which is unsurprising given that he has previously played the lead for over four years, touring the USA and internationally. Not only is he in perfect voice but he’s got the essence of the character down pat. Hailing from the Bay of Plenty, Matt Crainleigh plays worldly-wise songwriter Bob Gaudio with showstopping panache, further enhanced by his perfectly pitched performance. The remaining founding members, that include bassist Nick Massi (Auckland’s Andrew Coshan, home from working in Australia) and the ‘tough guy’ Tommy DeVito (Christchurch’s Fergus Inder), work as a tightly choreographed and harmonised foursome on stage demonstrating a believable long-lasting relationship.
The ensemble cast performances are equally spectacular. Special mention is warranted for Andrew Grainger’s performance portraying the mafia boss Gyp De Carlo, who epitomises the motley crew of gangsters influencing the band’s life choices. Lewis Fancis truly flexes his acting chops playing a variety of roles, dancing and showing off his pipes.
As the title implies, this is very much a male dominated show with bravado and macho behaviour reflecting the origins of the main characters. However, the supporting ‘Jersey Girls’ in the guise of wives, daughters and lovers add spunk throughout with their feisty acting and singing performances.
Although the band’s fame has diminished with time, it’s still staggering to see how successful the Four Seasons were – with their first three records going to #1, in addition to 26 top 40 hits between 1962 and 1975, and over 100 million records sold.
Even so it’s easy to forget how well-known their hits remain. These include Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Candy Girl and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow just to name a few…their impact evident by a majority of the audience, both young and old, singing along to every tune.
Harold Moot’s multi-layered set design is incredibly versatile and ergonomic. It’s expansiveness cleverly allows for the jazzy big performance numbers as well as intimate moments. And the sleek industrial lines wonderfully complement both Jeremy Fern’s and Dave Spark’s dramatic and effective lighting and AV designs respectively. Highlights include ingenious visual effects replicating the 1960s with retro TV screens and ‘actual footage’ from the Ed Sullivan show.
Musical director Zac Johns’ astute guidance manifests in the stunning iconic harmonies peppering the production, reminiscent of the 1960s. The live musicians onstage with a full-on drum kit and swinging horn section add pep and razzmatazz.
Last but definitely not least director Grant Meese has outdone himself once again by assembling a stellar cast that has benefitted from his clearsighted direction.
G & T Productions have taken a risk staging this show during these tough Covid times – their bravery deserves your support. Jersey Boys’ success packed with crowd-pleasing tunes is testament that this show has stood the test of time. It promises a night of entertainment that’s bound to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
Jersey Boys plays The Civic 16 April to 16 May, 2021.