By Nicola Bennett
Jersey Boys introduces audiences to the background story of rock and roll legends Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. For those who may know the music but not the men behind it, it is a glimpse behind the curtain of the international recording legends. Set against the backdrop of their 1960’s New Jersey neighbourhood, the musical depicts their tumultuous beginnings as small-town club performers who strive for a future beyond working for the local mob. The story captures the ongoing challenges faced by the group as the decades pass, with the characters evolving as their fame grows and personal lives complicate. As each member experiences shifts in their personal and professional lives, so too does the dynamic within the group begin to morph before the audiences’ eyes, revealing the toll of international stardom on these four boys from Jersey. Each member of the group contributes their own perspective to the story throughout, which creates a setting of authenticity and intimacy for the audience to connect with the humans behind the legend.
Every performer representing a Four Seasons’ group member should be commended for skilfully combining comedy and drama without evolving into caricatures of their namesakes. Ryan Gonzalez (Frankie Valli), Cameron MacDonald, (Tommy DeVito), Thomas McGuane (Bob Gaudio) and Glaston Toft (Nick Massi) each shine in their roles and vocals, with the musical range between the four leads as wide as it is impressive to witness as the audience. The falsetto of Frankie Valli is in the highly capable hands of Gonzalez, who skilfully balances his character’s vulnerability and tireless determination. Special mention also to Glaston Toft, whose resumes the role of Nick Massi in the 2019 season which marks 10 years since he started in the role in the original 2009 Melbourne production. The ensemble cast evolves seamlessly around the four primary characters to play a variety of roles and further build the worlds of New Jersey and the performance industry. Much of the set movement is also the responsibility of the cast members and a credit to them for their flawless onstage coordination.
The set is used to reinforce the bleak harshness of their New Jersey home, with an elaborate scaffolding and wire framework used throughout the entirety of the production. It provides a symbolic reminder to audiences of the group’s original roots as they progress through their career and to fancier settings, that their success was built in their town of Belleville and that their connection to it will never truly be gone. The use of lighting throughout is also powerful and effective in managing sharp transitions without seeming jarring.
I have been fortunate enough to see this production in the past, both in local tours and in Broadway and West End productions. The longevity and repeated return of this show to Melbourne’s theatre scene is a testament to its popularity and consistency across many years and continents, and a choice I couldn’t endorse more. If there was ever a musical that was guaranteed to reach beyond generational tastes and trends, it is the iconic melodies of Jersey Boys which proves itself worthy every time. Don’t deny yourself this genuinely captivating and enjoyable experience and book quickly before it finishes on April 14th.
Photo Credit: Jeff Busby
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.