"Wow, just wow", "What an incredible show", "So much talent on that one stage", "How good was that band?", and my personal favourite from the lady sitting next to me, "What a treat that was" .... these were just a few of the many comments I heard from audience members as we left the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre after being immersed in the songs and story of the Four Seasons delivered so heartfelt by the cast of Redcliffe Musical Theatre's production of Jersey Boys.
Thomas Armstong-Robley's director's message in the program indicated that he had taken the jukebox musical in a different direction focusing on building strong relationships and delivering truthful acting and creating a world an audience could invest in. And invest we did. We laughed, we cried, we sung along to every hit that was presented on stage and we felt, at times, as though we had been transported back to those golden days and were audience members at the Ed Sullivan Show or American Bandstand. It’s not an easy task to direct a show such as Jersey Boys as well as fill one of the leading roles but Armstrong-Robley easily bought to life the seedy world in which the boys lived in New Jersey and their subsequent rise to fame. The clever use of the scaffold type set and the different angles that the band performed to were clever direction techniques which added to the overall success of this show.
The production kicks off on a slightly slower pace as it goes through the very early stages of what would later become the Four Seasons. But once everything falls into place it’s a fast and thrilling ride to the finish as it goes through the highs and the lows of what it takes to be the hottest musical sensation in the US.
The four lead performances are what really cap off this show. Alexander Thanasoulis portrays Frankie Valli, Thomas Armstrong-Robley is Tommy DeVito, Matthew Leigh is Bob Gaudio, and Jeremy Clark is Nick Massi and when their voices came together to belt out those classic Four Seasons hits it was magical. The four of them have great stage presence and manage to draw the attention of the audience through their own methods unique to their characters’ personalities. Alexander Thanasoulis specifically gives his all and transforms into Frankie Valli in what is a phenomenal starring role. He had already captured the audience from the moment he stepped on stage but when he started belting out the chorus to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" in Act II the feeling in the audience became electric.
Each of the stars are fantastic in both their acting and musical sequences and exhibit great chemistry between each other which makes it so much more enjoyable. They have the voice and they have the moves which are slick and take you back to when the Four Seasons ruled the music industry. Each of the four leads stood out in their own right and brought their own something special to the stage.
I have to give a special mention to the hard-working ensemble of this show who each had 2 or 3 (sometimes more) characters to portray. Standouts amongst this incredible group were Lyndon Steele who played an incredibly enthusiastic Joe Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci, the actor ... who knew?), Dale Shearman who played the character of Bob Crewe, Adrian Carr who played Gyp De Carlo and commanded the stage every time he walked on it, and Claudia Pereira who embodied the role of Mary Delgado with an incredibly thick Jersey accent. However, the whole ensemble was exciting to watch.
Set Design by Thomas Armstrong-Robley and Jonathan Johns was simple but highly effective and was used seamlessly throughout the whole production giving the show the depth it needed. The set changes were all done by ensemble members which added to the flow of the show and the clever use of props really added to the authenticity of the era. Having the 10-piece band visible on stage was also another highlight for me as it really added to the feel of the show (more on the band later). Costuming by Erickson Illustre was both incredibly detailed and specifically designed and selected for the era. The lighting design for the show was at times a bit too dark (for me) and there were a couple of sound issues on the show I saw but it did not detract in any way to the incredible performance.
Guest Musical Director, Robert Clark, and his ten-piece band were an absolute highlight of the show. We are so incredibly lucky here in Redcliffe to have had Robert Clark taking the reins on the music for this show. He has an impressive CV so it was no shock that he was able to easily deliver the complex and beautiful harmonies that are synonymous with the iconic Four Seasons sound in the cast. How closely the cast matched the sound of the original band was almost eerie, and a tribute to Clark’s Musical Direction. The band were tight and deserved a standing ovation of their own - I'm actually so glad I stayed right until the last note was played so we as an audience could show our appreciation to this line up of professionals. I think perhaps the house lights should stay down until the very last note is played so that the audience is more inclined to stay and allow Clark to take his bow front of a full audience.
Choreography by Jenny Morrison was another highlight which brought the whole show together, especially the choreography of the four leads and their iconic dance moves. The style, whether measured and deliberate or snappy, belongs to the era, and it’s the thread that runs through the piece, pulling the story and staging together.
Jersey Boys runs at the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre until the 22nd of March and this is not a show to be missed. It was promised to be QPAC quality and I can assure you that it definitely what you get with this show – get your tickets today before they sell out.