Musical Review: Jersey Boys – Oh What a Night


Whatever era you grew up in, you will know their tunes. The hit songs of The Four Seasons – Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy De Vito and Nick Massi – have been recorded over and over again by various singers and bands since they were first written and performed in the 1960s. Songs like ‘Walk Like a Man’ and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ – which we have probably heard before, but whose provenance we may not have realised.

The origins of these hits and others comes clear in the Broadway musical ‘Jersey Boys’, that finally comes to our shores after opening in New York in 2005. It tells the story of these four Italian lads from New Jersey, who rise from the grim projects to become a musical phenomenon. Played by South African cast members Grant Almirall (Frankie Valli), Kenneth Meyer (Bob Gaudio), Daniel Buys (Tommy de Vito) and Emmanuel Castis (Nick Massi), the four Jersey boys sing their way to the top of the pop music charts of the 1960s with hit after hit, after hit. But their troubles from their days in the crime-ridden projects continue to plague them even after they find success and fame, and test the bonds of their brotherhood, though never undermining their great music.

Watching the life stories behind The Four Seasons unfold on stage made for good theatre, but it was when the four performers broke out into song that the musical leapt from being entertaining to dazzling. Almirall’s pitch perfect Valli-falsetto was amazing, while the harmony of the other three was just like hot chocolate to the ears. The moves they threw in – plus some attitude from de Vito – completed the act, and had the audience tapping their feet and singing along.

And while the foursome got their identities from the band, the personality of each member was expertly brought out by the performers. Almirall shows the different layers of Frankie, from awkward singer to confident star to heartbroken father; while Buys brings out Tommy’s macho, working class pride and lack of self-discipline superbly. Meyer is charming as the guileless Bob, and Castis as Nick is a good counterbalance to his band-mates’ varied personalities with his even keel.

The rest of the cast pulled their weight too, especially Taryn-Lee Hudson who plays Mary, Frankie’s first wife; and Carmen Pretorius who plays Lorraine, a journalist who Frankie falls head over heels for. Kirsten Murphy Rossiter made a respectable brief appearance as Frankie’s troubled daughter Francine; Duane Alexander was a delightfully flamboyant record producer Bob Crewe; and Charlie Bouguenon delivered a spot-on performance as mafia boss, Gyp de Carlo.

Don’t miss this musical, if only to enjoy timeless pop songs being performed. It’s a wonderful tribute to one of the most compelling bands of the ’60s, whose legacy has more impact on music now that we might recognise.

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