The Story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
DURING the 1940s, the big Hollywood studios were notorious for airbrushing out all the unpleasant aspects of the lives of famous musicians. MGM’S Till the Clouds Roll By (1945) and Words and Music (1948) and Warner Brothers’ Rhapsody in Blue (1945) and Night and Day (1946) all presented dramatic portraits of Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, George Gershwin and Cole Porter which left the impression that they were near-perfect human beings. All four of those films were saved by being crammed full with memorable or popular pieces of music.
A similar charge might be levelled at Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who wrote the book for the Jersey Boys show.
It’s hard to believe that Francesco Castelluccio (aka Frankie Valli), the eldest of three sons, born in 1934 to an Italian family in Newark, New Jersey, or the Bronx-born Bob Gaudio, who together formed the long-term base of The Four Seasons, were quite such innocents abroad as depicted in this script.
Looking at the list of hits associated with Valli, 29 top 40 recordings with The Four Seasons and nine as a solo artist, and the long list of hits written by Gaudio, including Sherry and Oh What a Night, it is equally easy to see why, with Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Like those old films, in the end its the music that really counts in this show and with 35 songs (or parts of songs – on too many occasions we find a number being faded out part way through), there was no shortage of wonderful musical memories for the packed Frankie Valli and Four Seasons fans to enjoy. MD Griff Johnson and his orchestra, director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo, made sure that the sounds, movement and attitudes of the characters matched the time and place in which they were set.
Although Ryan Heenan couldn’t quite match those high falsetto notes that made Valli’s singing so unique, he made a good job of creating the character and presenting the numbers in the original style. Blair Gibson as composer-singer Gaudio had the right confident air of a man who, despite setbacks, has the belief to know when he has composed a winner, and the determination to sell it to a disbelieving music industry.
Dalton Wood (Tommy DeVito), full of sharp wisecracks and self-belief even when his gambling threatened to put an end to the band’s career, and a steady Eddie of a Nick Massi from Christopher Short, completed a very believable, watchable and listenable Four Seasons.
They were backed by Emma Crossley, Victoria McCabe and Ellie Seaton, who not only created the ladies in Valli’s life but also made up a more than just capable singing group. Add six men who between them brought to life the good the bad and the ugly who passed through the lives of The Four Seasons, and skillfully joined in the stylised music and movement of the period, and you have a well presented pacey production to watch and listen to.
If you are a Frankie Valli, Four Seasons fan, the show is a must, and for those who like that period sound there is quite a bit to enjoy.