With 34 musical numbers it would be easy to dismiss Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, as a mere juke box musical. But that would be doing this latest production of the show to hit Melbourne a huge disservice – there is some fine dramatic acting and well-held tension in this story. What impressed me was that the pace never flags and I didn’t look at my watch once during the whole show, which is a sure sign it kept my complete attention.
Casting Frankie Valli must be a nightmare, as the role requires a secure and gripping falsetto, as well as competent acting in both comedy and drama. Ryan Gonzalez is perfect in all departments and easily convinces us he is the real deal. Supporting him as the other members of The Four Seasons Are Cameron McDonald as Tommy Devito, Thomas McGuane as Bob Gaudio, and Glaston Toft as Nick Massi.
McDonald has the dramatic challenge of portraying a fairly unlikeable manipulative character who is quick to claim credit for others’ work, and is the cause of angst and bad experiences for The Four Seasons, even though he did start the group. He is a fine performer who does a good job as the most unsavoury member of The Four Seasons.
Thomas McGuane is a star in the making with his performance as the bright and creative boy with the superior brain, as composer and singer Bob Gaudio. I was blown away by his charisma, singing and acting and will be watching for him in the future.
The fourth member of the Jersey Boys is the only one who did the original show in 2009, Glaston Toft as Nick Massi. Another impressive performance and his bass vocals are simply thrilling.
Glenn Hill, in the co-starring role as the camp producer Bob Crewe, has excellent timing and manages that character to perfection, providing the snappy comedy lines with panache.
A hard-working ensemble of just 13 play multiple roles and give the impression of being many more people than just the 13 – there isn’t a weak link among them.
My only quibble is that the Jersey accent is very strong and fast, and sometimes diction let the performers down.
Musically, it’s full of hits, with the most spectacular being “Big Girls Don’t Cry” “My Eyes Adored You”, “Bye Bye Baby” and “Walk Like A Man”, but there isn’t a dud song in the whole show.
Musical direction by Luke Hunter and his ensemble of five is terrific.
This is a show for any fans of the Four Seasons’ music, and anyone else who is interested in a good story with great songs.
Classic Melbourne’s Music Theatre Editor Julie Houghton attended Jersey Boys at the Regent Theatre.