The Four Seasons were one of those rare American bands during the 1960s that was able to not be swept up in the British Invasion. Very few bands that weren’t from the UK were able to separate themselves from the crowd. Four guys from the wrong side of the tracks in Jersey managed to create a sound that was unique and highly appreciated by music fans of that decade.
Back in 2005 Jersey Boys, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music by Bob Gaudio, opened on Broadway. It was a success. Such a success that it won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical. It is a show that has everything going for it. The staging is simple, but eye catching, the four lead performers are strong and the songs are amazing. What really surprised me was how gripping the story was. Before going to the musical lead singer Frankie Valli was the only the member of The Four Seasons who I knew by name. After leaving Place des Arts after watching the story of the band unfold over the 2 and ½ hours (with a 15 minute intermission) of the show I realized that each member of the band was important and had their own distinct characters.
The energy of the show, which suffered from very few lulls, was always at the same level of the hit songs of the band. In between the moments they sang “Rag Doll”, “Sherry”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”, and “Walk Like a Man” they kept the tempo up and as a result the audience engaged. The dialogue was authentic and kept coming at breakneck speed. Even the changing of sets, which were largely sent on stage via remote control, between scenes did not slow things down. Pauses were few and the four leads, Canadian Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito), Hayden Milanes (Frankie Valli), Drew Seeley (Bob Gaudio), and Keith Hines (Nick Massi), showed their vocal strength and fitness by keeping up.
A big part of the show is the nostalgic feeling it produces. The music, clothes, cars and hairdos of the era are brought back to life via the show. It was a very particular era the 60s and doubly so for music. That feeling it produces in you led to many in the packed audience singing and clapping along with heads bobbing. Even though I am too young to have lived through the band’s heyday I thoroughly enjoyed the music and was amazed by how much Hayden Milanes sounded like Frank Valli. Anyone who has heard a The Four Seasons songs know that Valli had a very distinctive voice and Milanes was as close to it as you could possibly be without being the man himself. The four-part harmony the actors were able to create was something to hear.
Their story involves women, wives, money, divorce, fights amongst the members, drugs, death, and early struggles. You also really see how lonely life is on the road for performers. The loneliness often gets to the best of them resulting in them seeking out the wrong type of companionship. Despite this the lure of the spotlight is so strong that even after the other three left the band Frankie Valli continued on leading that vagabond style life on the road. Bottom line is you left the theatre knowing more about each member of the band, understanding what went on behind the scenes and an even great appreciation of all those great songs.