January, 2015 (Oh, What a Night)

by Rachelle Eldar

From January 8th to 11th, Montrealers needed only visit Place Des Arts to be transported back in time – to Belleville, New Jersey, 1951, to be exact. Jersey Boys, a jukebox musical that has won multiple awards, is the story of 1960s rock n’ roll group, The Four Seasons.

There’s just something irresistible about the play – it’s fast paced, electric, and filled with energy. No one has a voice like Frankie Valli, the group’s lead singer. His angelic falsetto boggles the mind; he has a vocal range that allows him to reach a higher pitch than most women singers.

Frankie Valli, Tommy Devito, and Nick Massi grew up in a rough, crime -filled neighbourhood, looking for a way out. There were only three: joining the army, involvement with the Italian mafia, or becoming famous. For The Four Seasons, it was two out of the three. While a few of the members did develop criminal records, they eventually met Bob Gaudio, and the four young men worked their way up to becoming one of the most famous bands in America.

Their story means a lot to me. I’ve adored the band’s music for years, but never knew much about the members themselves. Little was known about the group’s history prior to Jersey Boys, because the magazines of the era never wrote much about them. The band didn’t want the fact that they had prison records getting out. Finally, in the early 2000s, Bob Gaudio decided to make a musical based on the band’s discography, and in 2006, Jersey Boys was born.

Clint Eastwood directed a movie adaptation of the story, which aired in June 2014. From the moment the opening credits began, I knew I was about to witness something special, and I was right. Two months later, I was lucky enough to see the stage production in New York. It was completely incredible, the show created such a rich atmosphere of dancing, laughter and total absorption in the music and emotions. As the band is no longer active, it’s impossible to see them perform live, but the musical allows for an experience that comes very close to it.

I saw the last of the January Place Des Arts productions. The atmosphere wasn’t quite the same as in New York. The audience was a lot more stiff and didn’t react as strongly. And while the actors were very good, they didn’t measure up to the cast members in New York or the movie cast. Still, the show was amazing. Seeing it always puts me in a great mood and makes all my stress fade away.

Erich Bergen, who played Bob Gaudio in the film version, observed that while people can listen to the music whenever they want to, everyone wants to go back to the show in order to relive that experience, that classic rags-to-riches story that never fails to put viewers in a good mood. It’s the type of story that makes you feel like you can accomplish anything if you work hard enough, and that’s a feeling everyone can enjoy

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