In New Jersey, shares guitarist Tommy DeVito at the start of the musical Jersey Boys, there were three things you could do: join the Army, get mobbed, or become a star. ‘It could happen. It did happen,’ he muses. DeVito – along with three other male members including frontman Frankie Valli – comprised the American rock band The Four Seasons. They were famous in the 1960s until another foursome – the Fab Four – came along. And much like their British counterpart, The Four Seasons’ hit songs still live on in karaoke rooms and radio stations on lazy Sundays: ‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ and ‘Begging’.
Jersey Boy, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2006, a year after it made its Broadway debut, is about the rise and fall of the band. Divided into four acts – spring, summer, fall and winter – each member gets a chance to tell the story of how they progressed from singing under streetlamps to performing on stages all over America. It also gives us a glimpse into the debts, in-fights and heartbreaks behind the glitter.
The actors in the Singapore production – an all-South African cast – managed to keep the changes in mood tightly in control, and with a little help from swiftly transformed sets, took the audience from laughter to tears with ease. They also gave the New Jersey accent a good shot, although it did start to fall a little flat towards the second act. The night we watched, a few minor technical problems disrupted the flow of the show slightly, with a wig threatening to slip off during an otherwise sexy scene, and the vocals of girl group The Angels occasionally being drowned out by the music.
That the audience ended up in a frenzy of cheers and wolf whistles is a testament not only to how moving this musical is, it also acknowledges the fantastic performance of the actors, led by Grant Almirall who plays Frankie Valli. While the characters of Valli and DeVito no doubt steal the limelight with their vocals and bravado respectively, they are brilliantly supported by Bob Gaudio (Kenneth Meyer), a whiny puritanical boy who grows up before our eyes and proves himself to be a loyal and talented songwriter, and Nick Massi (Emmanuel Castis), the self-proclaimed Ringo of the group who nonetheless delivers some hilarious lines and booming bass notes.
Filled with big hearts, big dreams and big voices, Jersey Boys fully lives up to the hype and is definitely worth a watch – and be sure to bring a good pair of shoes to dance around in!