Musical Director: Sam Coates
Director & Choreographer: Emma Rogers
Reviewer: Helen Tope
Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons will celebrate their 60th anniversary in 2020. It is a milestone few groups can boast. Their back catalogue features some of the most memorable songs in pop history: Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man. The music has moved beyond the 1960s, with the musical Jersey Boys becoming a monster hit on stages across the world.
New Jersey Nights takes up the mantle, with a fresh take on the music of The Four Seasons. The biography of the group takes a back seat, with the songs doing all the talking. It’s essentially a musical revue, with a small cast of singers and dancers and a live band. It may be on a more intimate scale, but anyone who’s heard Frankie Valli sing will attest to the fact that small can also be powerful. The singers – a tight-knit group – do a fantastic job of selling the songs. Michael Conway (a Jersey Boys alumnus) and Damion Scarcella are stand-outs, with Scarcella’s falsetto coming to life during Sherry.
Taking it in turns to front the group, the vocalists also prove themselves adept at narrating the show and interacting with the audience. A show like this, with few unscripted moments, thrives on banter and cast member William Hazel is excellent at creating a rapport with the audience. It’s a smart move, as the format of the show – songs followed by a short piece of narration – could feel quite sterile without that spark.
The show’s strength is how well it showcases the music of The Four Seasons and their contemporaries; it reminds us that pop music would sound very different without the influence of hits such as Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Be My Baby and Unchained Melody. The close harmonies, the killer chorus – the pop industry today continues to owe a debt to those early hit-makers.
But these songs are more than hits; they became the soundtrack for a whole generation and the phenomenal success of Jersey Boys points to an appetite for the nostalgia musical that isn’t going away any time soon. Setting the right tone is crucial for musicals such as these, and New Jersey Nights caters to that nostalgia with a charm that even a cynic would find hard to resist.
New Jersey Nights is a must-see for those who have loved the Jersey Boys musical. If you’re not acquainted with the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, New Jersey Nights gives a great overview not only of the Four Seasons songbook, but the music that inspired them.
The show really takes off in the second act, when music from acts such as The Tremeloes and The Everly Brothers is featured. The a capella section featuring Silence is Golden and Blue Moon is a real highlight, allowing the singers to let loose. Their connection – through the songs and with each other – is palpable. It moves the musical beyond the glitz and polish into something deeper. At its heart, New Jersey Nights endeavours – and succeeds – in elevating the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons to a level of appreciation it thoroughly deserves. Great music is always great music, and for all its period detail, New Jersey Nights puts the music front and centre: still credible, still relevant. Exactly where it should be.
Runs until 8 April 2017 | Image: Contributed