“We weren’t a social movement like the Beatles; our fans didn’t wear flowers in their hair or try to levitate the Pentagon. Our people were the guys who were shipped overseas and their sweethearts…..”
The music of Frankie Valli and the four seasons is timeless; it encapsulates the nostalgia of the swinging sixties and is sampled on modern chart hits today. It was band member and songwriter Bob Gaudio’s brainchild to take a handful of their back catalogue and create a jukebox stage show. Jersey Boys opened its doors on Broadway in 2005 paving the way for several international adaptations across Europe and Australia. The hit musical charts the rise to fame of the Four seasons, documenting how ‘three guys under a streetlamp singing somebody else’s latest hit’ became Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.
On the surface, the narrative is simplistic, four guys from the wrong side of New Jersey are thrust into superstardom but it’s more than that. The protagonists Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi each narrate their own carefully constructed season, helping to assemble the four pieces of the puzzle. The show opens with an insight into their youth, Tommy and Nick are two hard nuts, in and out of prison, who discover protégé Frankie Castellucio (later adopting the stage name Valli), a sixteen year old with the falsetto voice of an angel and bring him up on stage for the first time. An impromptu meeting with musical maestro Bob Gaudio fully forms the band and after some much needed soul searching, they find their identity as the Four Seasons. As they make it into the limelight, their fame comes at many costs – they find themselves with dishevelled family lives and battle with addictions. In spite of this the show never loses its feel good factor – the character of producer Bob Crewe brings a comedic performance that never loses its hilarity and the audience’s toes are kept tapping to a continuous flow of hit songs.
I admit, faced with the prospect of spending two and a half hours stuck in a warp of sixties music I was initially reluctant to see the show but the songs are captivating, the performances charismatic and the audience diverse, it’s hard not to enjoy. This isn’t a show of grandeur, the set design is simplistic with a grey prison wire staircase the only constant on stage, all other props are wheeled on as and when necessary by the cast members to ensure the show never loses his rapid pacing. One of the highlights of the musical is the faux telecast of the Four Seasons performing their first major hit ‘Sherry’ on ‘American Bandstand’, classic television cameras are used to project black and white footage of the performers from the stage to large television screens so the audience get a touch of sixties nostalgia. All in all, the set design is irrelevant, Jersey Boys is at its most effective when it’s just four men and their microphones performing classic songs such as ‘Can’t take my Eyes off you’, ‘Beggin’ and ‘Oh what a night’.
After seeing Jersey Boys I can thoroughly see why the Four Seasons deserve their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame and it’s a great night out. No matter what generation you’re from, whether you’ve heard of the band or not, you are sure to be clapping along and will no doubt be singing the songs for days after.
By Lauren Winter