Posts Tagged ‘jersey boys

08
Jan
19

Jersey Boys

 

Jersey Boys

Dodger Theatricals, Rodney Rigby and TEG Dainty

QPAC Lyric Theatre

 

January 5  – February 16 2019

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

You sell a hundred million records. See how you handle it.

Nick Massi

 

You ask four guys how it happened, you get four different versions.

Tommy DeVito

 

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Theodore Roosevelt

 

Of all the jukebox musicals, Jersey Boys is the best (And I ‘reckon SHOUT! The Legend of the Wild One comes a close second), and this production, unless you saw the original touring production (2009-2012) is the best! A sizzling, slick retelling of the real life story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, featuring their original much-loved music, and flamboyant characters and events to shape the era that saw the blue-collar boy band become one of America’s biggest pop sensations of all time, selling 175 million records worldwide. A little dramatic license allows time to move swiftly by, and almost all perspectives to be taken into account, as Frankie Valli (Ryan Gonzalez), Bob Gaudio (Thomas McGuane), Tommy DeVito (Cameron MacDonald) and Nick Massi (Glaston Toft) take turns to narrate, and manoeuvre themselves through fame, fortune, misfortune and finally, to land a place in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, back when a place in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was hard won. Like, when top of the class and good behaviour awards actually went not to the next name listed in the roll, but to the kids who were top of the class and well behaved. Like, when five stars and superlatives actually went not to every show under the sun, but to the productions that could blow your mind and change your life. There’s a bigger picture here…

 

For an entertaining and highly energetic musical production with a strong story and a smash hit, chart-topping, finger-snapping score performed by one of the tightest little musical outfits in the country (MD Luke Hunter), I mean it; Jersey Boys is the best. I know you’ll love it. You’ll actually love. this. show. You already love the music.

 

 

If you want the breakdown from a comparative point of view, read on.

Let’s just quickly note that as per the book (Marshall Brickman & Rik Elice), the girls play second fiddle; it’s the band’s story but even so, in a range of support roles Cristina D’Agostino, Mia Dabkowski-Chandler and Mackenzie Dunne seem even less a part of the story than in the earlier production. Even given the chance to prove that there’s more to the woman, D’Agostino is an extremely bitter and angry Mary Delgado – and perhaps, to the male writers and director, award-winning though they may be, she is reasonably so – but in each moment, particularly those fragile moments after the fury, leading into My Eyes Adored You, which is delivered beautifully and delicately, it would be far more interesting to see the full gamut of emotion, and I’m afraid we don’t. Imagine, just for fun, for half a second, what Paige Rattray might ask of her within the same limited timeframe? As The Angels, the trio is vocally precise and the harmonies just gorgeous. It’s a shame we don’t get to hear more from them during the road trip / tour scenes. But, not their story, y’know? 

 

 

Another missed opportunity is in the role of Tommy Devito, with Cameron MacDonald coming across at times as overly aggressive, however; others see this as the ideal interpretation of the character. My guess is that he’s overcompensating and that he’ll settle as the season continues. At the moment, if there’s any sense of vulnerability, guilt, shame or softness it’s a case of too little too late. Originally, MacDonald had understudied the role, and now he misses the opportunity to strip away Devito’s many layers, as Anthony Harkin did, without having built this character from the core, though of course the actor – and director – and coach – would say that he did exactly that. But as performer, the trick is to have done all the work, allowing us to catch glimpses of the degrees of shade without letting us in on the work it takes to get to that place night after night. These subtleties, or lack thereof, are inconsequential if you’ve never seen someone else embody the role.

 

Thomas McGuane doesn’t let memories of Declan Egan’s Bob Gaudio cloud his own captivating performance. With Egan taking on the UK touring contract after our Sydney season ended, it must have been thrilling for everyone involved to see McGuane step into his shoes. He’s a standout, a proper superstar, with the voice, and energy and charisma to slow-burn for days.

 

Who can forget the wit and sass of Helpmann Award winning cabaret star, Michael Griffiths, as Bob Crewe? Unfortunately, Glenn Hill doesn’t appear to, and he is allowed to overplay to the hilt. Again, if you’re a Jersey Boys virgin you might be amused by his particularly camp posturing, but I miss Griffiths’ stylish and sophisticated take on what must have been just as challenging a role in real life at the time. It’s a pleasure to see Enrico Mammarella return as Gyp, and always a pleasure to see in any guise, Luigi Lucente.

 

 

Ryan Gonzalez opens as Frankie Valli, and perhaps we’ll get less aggression as he settles into the season, or perhaps we’ll get a better sense that this is Valli’s fierce determination (we’ll see yet another interpretation of the role with Daniel Raso at alternate performances). It seems ridiculous to confirm that he can hit the notes – if he couldn’t he wouldn’t be here – but there’s a bit to settle into yet. Having done it all before, Glaston Toft hits his stride early, and of course he’s vocally splendid, and this time he’s also fitter and finer, more relaxed, in the role of Nick Massi.

 

 

The staging is slicker, the television studio scenes are snazzier, and though the production overall looks and feels less casually confident than before, the vocals and harmonies are spot on, and the story’s a good one. It’s a perfectly finished and polished jukebox production, and the crowd does indeed go wild! Believe it! Because this Jersey Boys is just as glossy as its new-look souvenir program.

 

With just a few Brisbane shows remaining, there’s no reason to miss Jersey Boys; certainly not because you’ve already seen it! We know that we love to return again and again to the stories that resonate with us, and if this is one – if one of these versions of the story is the one – that resonates with you, don’t let the opportunity pass you by. There. That’s Jersey Boys

 

They ask you, what was the high point?

…when everything dropped away and all there was, was the music – that was the best.

 

09
Sep
13

In Vogue: Songs by Madonna

 

In Vogue: Songs By Madonna

Brisbane Powerhouse

Powerhouse Visy Theatre

5 – 7 September 2013

 

Reviewed by Jenn Jay

 

We adored him as the effervescent Bob Crewe in Jersey Boys and now Brisbane has seen cabaret star, Michael Griffiths, very comfortable in his own skin and it seems, in that of Pop Diva Madonna’s, “the most famous bitch on the planet!”

 

 

A capacity crowd at the Powerhouse’s Visy Theatre were entertained by Michael Griffiths in his one man cabaret show, In Vogue: Songs by Madonna. The moment he stepped onto the stage, Michael slipped into his Madonna persona, opening the evening with a brilliant rendition of Vogue. Michael’s confident and sassy character immediately consumed the room.

 

For the next hour, Griffiths played the grand piano, serenading the audience with his unique versions of Madonna’s songs, broken often by humorous, crude banter. There is nothing like listening to a performer who really knows how to hold a tune, but who makes you laugh as well. Camp humour flowed freely to great effect.

 

As a fan of Madonna’s music (hard not to be a fan, growing up in the 80’s), I was keen to observe how a male would portray Madonna.  No costumes, wigs, American accent or cone-style bras in sight, just Michael dressed immaculately as himself, impersonating Madonna.

 

Michael uses his smooth and sexy voice to confidently belt out a selection of her most recognisable songs. His expert pianist skills lifted the entertainment level another notch. The Visy theatre provided the perfect intimate atmosphere for this kind of show.  You felt welcome in Michael’s Madonna’s living room.

 

BPH_In_Vogue_1_2013-1177x663

 

In character, Madonna laments that no-one buys music anymore – it’s all pirated and she no longer receives any royalties. (Like that’s going to hurt her billion dollar empire!) Many quips flow throughout the show, including a few digs towards Madonna’s best buddy, Lady Gaga. She is “probably going through my back catalogue right now.”

 

The question, “Was I a virgin or a whore?” leads into a highly entertaining version of Like a Virgin.

 

Michael introduces us to the song with the click of the fingers providing the beat, the ivories the melody and his powerful voice, the song. There are many references to Madonna’s diva ways, how she eats people up, then spits them out after she has got what she wanted. The show is peppered with camp, dry humour and bitchy, rude interpretations of Madonna’s life.

 

The audience loves it.

 

The show is slick, fast paced, hilariously clever and the music is top class. Written and directed by Dean Bryant, the script showcases his satirical genius and is interwoven smoothly with the music provided by the very talented Griffiths. The audience was taken on a paradoxical version of Madonna’s life journey.

 

BPH_In_Vogue_3_2013-1180x663

 

Michael, who wrote all the musical arrangements himself, has performed the show overseas, including sold out shows at the Edinburgh Festival. His New York performances – Madge’s home town – failed to draw a large crowd, “due mostly to the small back-street venue, that could hold only about 10 people”, Michael revealed in our post-show chat.

 

BPH_Michael_In_Vogue_Madonna_1_2013-1177x663

 

If you are familiar with Madonna’s persona and music you will more easily relate to the show and the humour, but even if you are not, Michael is an accomplished performer. The only complaint I have is it was over too quickly – 65 minutes felt more like 30.

 

“Why was I so successful, dressed like a slut?”

 

Why indeed?

 

 

Notes from the ed:

 

Michael also has his superb Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox. It’s a MUST-SEE! X

 

bryantandfrank.wordpress.com is a must-follow for fans of cabaret, music and musical theatre. One of the better theatre blogs out there, it gives great insight into the machinations (and minds) behind the works. I have to include this extract from a fascinating blog post from Dean Bryant, which gives you a good idea of how Madonna followed on from Britney Spears: The Cabaret, which I loved so much! In fact, they were already well and truly onto it (no surprises there, with Lisa Campbell on board!), when I noted The creative team behind Britney Spears: The Cabaret could be onto something. There is a new genre here, not only a reinvention of cabaret during massive cabaret resurgence but also a fresh approach to telling the story – real or imagined – behind the star. Imagine Christina: The Cabaret, Robbie Williams: The Cabaret, Lady GaGa: The Cabaret. What about Whitney: The Cabaret? Too soon? The format is deftly crafted cabaret and it has a sizable audience. x

 

Here’s what Dean Bryant noted:

 

Then came Madonna.  I really didn’t want to write this show.  The only reason I did is because it was my best friend Michael’s idea (the Michael who introduced me to Britney).  Michael and I studied together at WAAPA and have been best friends ever since.  He’s one of the most employable actors in musical theatre because he can sing, act, is tall and dance enough to get by.  He’s also happy to do ensemble and cover, which is a dream for any producer.  During our stint together on the original cast of Priscilla, he started doing ten-minute slots of cabaret at various functions.  And he was brilliant.  Not “I’m supporting my friend because he’s having a go” brilliant but actually comedically amazing, musically brilliant and exactly what cabaret should be.  So I started pushing him to do something for himself.  Instead he did chorus in Jersey Boys.  Well, it’s a wage.

 

But then after I’d done a few Adelaide Cabaret Festivals he said, I wanna do a show.  About Madonna.  Because Britney had already had a few seasons, I was loathe to tread that ground.  But he had a unique take – Christie impersonates Britney, it’s like an Alan Bennett monologue with songs about her life.  But Michael was going to do Madge without any attempt at accent, costume or wig.  Just say, I am her, so let’s get going.  Lisa Campbell was intrigued, but only if Michael would accompany himself at the piano.  Which he can do, luckily.  This was the stroke of genius because it turned his show into something very specific, a recital, essentially, of Madonna’s music.  I said from the start I didn’t want to biopic the script, because I’d done that on Britney, Newley and Liza.  Michael started sending me arrangements of the songs he was interested in, and they started sending ideas into my head of how they could fit.  In a biopic.  So I wrote a biopic script.  We were getting together to work the script for a few days, and Michael, who had professed to love my draft, spent the day rewriting the script.  So when I turned up at his house to begin the rehearsal process, there was an entirely new script waiting for me.  This led to the only real fight we’ve ever had in our friendship.  But the outcome of this (apart from a trip to Stonewall) was that we made a show that was original and unique.

 

Michael really wanted to push the idea that Madonna is an unsaluted songwriter.  So we went through all her lyrics and found key quotes, and then shaped the story around the idea that she was giving a masterclass from the piano of how to use your life to write pop.  Once we’d shaped that, thrown in a guest appearance from Justin Timberlake and a trip through the infamous “Sex” book, we had a show…

 

Michael is even better with an audience than I thought he would be.  Apart from the truly virtuoustic skill of being able to accompany yourself, sing and do dialogue, he can improvise hilarious dialogue on a moment’s notice.  Whenever I watch him do the show I am ridiculously proud of his talent and gratified that I had a part in making sure the world has seen it now.

 

Read more here.

 

 

24
Aug
12

Casting Brief: Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys

Lynne Ruthven Casting is looking for a new Frankie Valli! Again!

Is it you? If so, you’ll need your agent to submit your headshot and resume.

Only new submissions, please. Y’all know how it works.

Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys is produced in Australia by Rodney Rigby and Dainty Group.

Artists who are not available for audition dates should still apply as you may be eligible for consideration via DVD submission or Skype.

Audition Dates:

Sydney: Wednesday 12th September

Melbourne: Thursday 13th September

Brisbane: Friday 14th September

Role: Frankie Valli (6 shows/week)

Age: 20’s/early 30’s

Height: Must be 5’9″ or shorter

Range: Must have strong tenor with sweet and strong falsetto able to sing in the style of Frankie Valli.

Strong tenor to high A or Bb plus strong falsetto up to treble G. 

Must be very comfortable with traditional four-part harmonies.

Must be a very strong actor, comfortable with narrative text, and have gritty side as well as polished veneer.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS TUESDAY AUGUST 28th 2012

 

Run of play for Australia only.

Broadway creative team gets final say.

No publicity around casting process.

 

Jersey Boys

16
Jul
12

Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys

Declan Egan, Graham Foote, Anthony Harkin & Glaston Toft. Image by Jeff Busby.

Jersey Boys

The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

Newtheatricals & Dainty Group

QPAC Lyric Theatre

15th July – 16th September 2012

 

Somewhere an audience member just whispered:

These guys were so sharp back in the day. You look at bands today and they all look like idiots.

 

Well, Jersey Boys is a must-see! It’s quite simply the slickest show you’ll see in 2012…if you can get a ticket! You may not know the story but you’ll know the songs; they’re all your favourites, still heard so often on radio, in movies and in TVC’s. You’ll be tapping your toes and singing along to hits like Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, Oh What a Night, My Eyes Adored You, Stay, Let’s Hang on to What We’ve Got and Bye Bye Baby.

During interval last night (Brisbane’s opening night), Wally Lewis told us that the guy sitting next to him was doing just that! Singing, right into his ear, loudly, incessantly! I suggested he pick out a harmony. (He must have assumed Sam was an injured footy player, with his dislocated shoulder in a sling and his jacket thrown casually over it). Yes. It was a mixed crowd, a new sort of crowd for QPAC’s Lyric Theatre, just as it should be.

The winner of four Tony Awards, Jersey Boys is for everyone. I think I may have said the same about Rock of Ages but the difference here is that this music is timeless so even your grandparents will enjoy it. Jersey Boys is the best, most entertaining jukebox musical I’ve seen. In a blockbuster musical, it’s often difficult to get all the elements working together. Newtheatricals, Dainty Group, The Dodgers, Rodney Rigby, their co-producers and their creative team have not allowed any element to become the weak link. There simply isn’t one. This is a well-oiled machine, operating without losing any of its warmth and humanity like some of the other blockbusters; it’s easy to see why this show is such a success all over the world. In addition to an incredibly talented cast, production values that are second-to-none and fabulous songs that stay in your head long after you leave, at its core, Jersey Boys has a great story. And not only does it have a great story but also, its story is exceptionally well told, with a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. If you knew nothing about The Four Seasons, you’ll know (almost) the whole story by curtain call. There are some darker elements that are left unexplored (for example, Frankie lost a second daughter in a car accident within a year of losing Francine to a drug overdose), probably due to the time and emotional investment that additional plot points would require. Even so, they manage to pack in a LOT of background so there’s no chance you won’t be able to follow the story of these Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.

The result of a – strangely successful – Master Chef style narrative, where each character, as they become more prominent in the story, steps out of it to take turns to narrate events from their perspective, is a Grease Lightening-fast pace and the most electrifying energy on stage since the aforementioned and under appreciated Rock of Ages (from which you might remember Anthony Harkin, who plays Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys, though you’ll not recognise him in this guise!). Roy Lichtenstein style pop art images play across multiple screens located above the stage and scaffolding, adding a fun, colourful 50’s-60’s flavour to perfectly frame the era. The multi-media is also used effectively to stream live footage from the stage for the band’s numerous television appearances.

Note: You can read in your program, which is appropriately album sized, an excerpt from a chat between the writers, in which they discuss the commonality of audience members everywhere: we’ve all been part of a group. Can you imagine watching the story of your group on stage? Your book club? Your football team? Your three best friends in the city? The version you see will depend entirely on who tells it.

Jersey Boys opens with a French rap star and his backup girls performing a fun, funky remix of Oh What a Night (Ces Soirees-La), in between ghetto fencing and scaffolding that could be the set of another West Side Story. It’s the Glee element and it makes the production immediately universal, accessible and super sexy (unless you’re a Glee hater) but it’s still not as good a sound as the original! Fortunately, we get the original sound in abundance.

The Jersey Boys (there are five in all, with Dion Bilios and Graham Foote sharing the role of Frankie Valli) are an incredible group of some of the country’s best singer-actor-dancers. They’re the actual triple threats, you know, like in Network Ten’s upcoming reality show, I Will Survive. I know. I feel you cringing at the mention of it; all you actual triple threats out there. But how wonderful to have commercial television continue to put the spotlight on what you do and, we can only hope, get more bums on seats in theatres everywhere (though, this is clearly not an issue for Jersey Boys)!

The sound is SO good that Sam – ever the skeptic – questioned whether or not the quartet was actually singing. Well, we were sitting close enough to hear a few numbers in stereo and these guys are indeed singing and what’s more, they are absolutely SPOT ON. Graham Foote (Frankie on opening night) is pitch perfect and after years spent with The Ten Tenors, he has the vocal training, stamina and touring experience to sustain the famous falsetto that made The Four Seasons something completely different for their time. Foote’s characterisation is fine and he is emotionally present in every moment, although I felt he could probably afford to take more time to recover, after the phone call informing him of his daughter’s death.

Graham Foote

“We were looking for something new. It was very important to establish a sound, so that people heard a record on the radio and knew immediately that it was you.”

Frankie Valli

Anthony Harkin, the consummate performer, gives Tommy DeVito such intriguing layers that you begin to wonder what you would do if you counted him amongst your own circle of friends. This guy started it all and almost ended it. But you might, as Valli does, end up forgiving him; such is his patent blend of tainted and somewhat adorable qualities. We always like the bad guy, don’t we?!

Anthony Harkin

“You ask four guys how it happened, you get four different versions.”

Tommy DeVito

Declan Egan, in an impressive professional theatre debut, plays the gifted composer, Bob Gaudio. Always smiling, always working and always looking so far into the future that the other band members fear being left behind, Gaudio is an easy-going, open character. Egan brings joy, playfulness and sensitivity to the role.

Declan Egan

“I never heard a voice like Frankie Valli’s. After eight bars, I know I need to write for this voice.”

Bobby Gaudio

Ipswich boy, Glaston Toft (now THERE’S a stage name!), is Nick Massi, the brother of DeVito and the distinctive bass voice, bass guitarist and musical arranger for the group, largely responsible, along with Valli’s falsetto, for The Four Seasons’ unique sound. Massi died in 2000 and Toft’s portrayal of him is a beautiful tribute, revealing unexpected warmth, gentleness and oddball Ferris Bueller style humour. (Nick Massi: the original Cameron Fry!). Toft’s outburst (you’ll know the one, there’s only one) is applause worthy and on opening night he got it, the audience relishing his simple frustration in having to room with his brother while on the road.

Glaston Toft

“Maybe this is a good time for me to start my own group.”

Nick Massi

Well-loved cabaret star, Michael Griffiths, plays the hot-pink-clad life of the party, Bob Crewe, who wrote the lyrics and produced The Four Seasons. He takes a Bob Downe approach to the character and I love it! Griffiths is a standout in an A1 company. In a production such as this, his is no small achievement.

Michael Griffiths

“Follow me, boys. Destiny awaits!”

Bob Crewe

The ensemble is vocally strong and super fast during transitions between scenes, which meld seamlessly into one another, from song to dialogue and vice versa, helping to maintain the show’s break-neck pace. The girls, in their various roles, are committed and completely convincing, particularly Lisa Adam, as Mary Delgado (N.B. NOT the 2004 American winner of The Bachelor but Valli’s first wife). Her pathos and frustration is palpable and she commands our attention; in short, her performance is a perfect study in how to find your light, use stillness and claim the space!

If it were not for the strength of the company, the finesse of Choreographer, Sergio Trujillo, Musical Director, Luke Hunter and his talented band and the vision of two-time Tony Award winner, Director, Des McAnuff (not forgetting the original incredible music and story), this could be another fun, entertaining, run-of-the-mill jukebox musical. Be assured it’s not.

Jersey Boys is something special – it’s the smash hit of the year – make sure you don’t miss it!