Jersey Boys has been working its way back to Melbourne, bringing its national tour to its final destination.
Having won various awards including the Tony Award for Best Musical, Olivier Award for Best Musical and Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, the Original Broadway production remains one of the longest running musicals, and the show still has current US and UK tours happening throughout 2019. The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ rise to fame against all odds has truly made its way into pop culture canon, and Jersey Boys is a beautiful celebration of their journey and success.
Martin Croft is the Associate Director for the current national Australian tour, and has worked on the show since its initial Australian Premiere in 2009. I sat down with him ahead of the Melbourne opening of Jersey Boys to discuss the show and all things Four Seasons.
This is the second time Jersey Boys has been in Australia, with the first being almost 10 years ago. Has the show changed at all since then?
Not very much at all, actually. In the first show we got some cuts that were put in, but some of those have actually gone back in, a couple lines here and there, but otherwise everything is exactly the same – it’s the same as the Original Broadway production. The quality, the script… it’s just so tight, it’s lean. There’d been some feedback overseas that audiences wanted a longer finale where they could get up and dance around, so in the first season we put in an extra verse and chorus into the finale and it was in for one performance. Because it just didn’t suit the show, to gild the lily like that, we thought we need to put it back to the smart, crisp way the show is famous for.
Do you have a favourite moment or song in the show?
It’s an interesting thing that the writers have done. It’s like we dangle a carrot… like before we get to Sherry, and once they start to hear the underscoring you actually see the audience start to move, they start to go “oh, here it comes!” So that’s really exciting, and of course the other one is Can’t Take (My Eyes Off Of You) because it’s just so continually current. I don’t know how much money they make out of that, but it’s on ad campaigns, it’s in films, all different versions of it. Even for the young kids, it’s suddenly familiar to them because they realise “oh, this is where this song started out.”
The Four Seasons were stars during the 60s and 70s, but their music has transcended a single generation. How have you found the audience demographic of those coming to see the show?
This time I think it’s even younger than we had last time. I think because the show’s got more of a history now and the kids have heard about it, you know music theatre kids who were probably too young 10 years ago, so they’re really interested to see what the hype was about. They’re brilliantly written pop songs. They’re written to have general appeal. So I don’t know that that changes over the years. They are pop songs and are written for that reason, so they start to fall into the ‘canon of evergreens’ like a Gershwin song, I guess. This is what they become. Songs that just everybody knows and can relate to. They’re so well structured.
Frankie Valli is known for his absurdly high falsetto. Was it hard to find the perfect fit?
It’s always hard. We’ve actually got 4. Because we have two Frankie’s and two covers. And not only do they have to have the right notes, but they have to look vaguely Italian, if that makes sense [laughs]. At least sort of Mediterranean looking. And they can’t be over 5’9” because Frankie’s gotta be short. Part of his thing is that he’s short and there’s a lot of references to that in the show, so yes, there are constrictions.
Do you have a favourite Four Seasons song that isn’t in Jersey Boys?
I like Silence is Golden. I think that’s great. Actually, it’s quite an interesting little study for some of the real fans – some of the underscoring is songs that are not in the show, they’re familiar songs.
Jersey Boys takes a more biographical approach to the ‘jukebox’ musical, and really revolutionised it as a genre. What do you think is unique about the show and its structure?
The interesting thing with this show is that, with one exception, the songs that are in this show are done in performance as they were originally designed to do. So they’re not put in to try and move the drama along, which is what makes some jukebox musicals not work, in my opinion. They’d try and mould a pop song into a narrative and Jersey Boys really doesn’t – it has the songs where they need to be, which is in performance mode. They’ve cleverly put them in the right spot emotionally in the show. I think that’s the strength of it. What we call the ‘big three’ (Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man) are done in performance as though they’re at a concert which is what they were designed to do.
Jersey Boys is currently playing at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre for 8 weeks only. For tickets and more information, visit Jerseyboys.com.au