Theatre review: Jersey Boys, Civic Theatre

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The international smash hit musical Jersey Boys. Photo / Dean Purcell
The international smash hit musical Jersey Boys. Photo / Dean Purcell

The classic rags-to-riches story needs a fairy godmother but with rock 'n' roll the escape from poverty and obscurity doesn't require supernatural intervention. All it takes is some talent, plenty of hard work, a few lucky breaks and one great song.

What makes such stories so appealing is neatly summed up by The Four Seasons' Tommy DeVito - a small-time hoodlum who anticipates his band's meteoric rise to stardom by telling the audience "it could happen - it did happen".

Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons produced some of the 60s' most memorable hits but their story is not well known - probably because it has nothing to do with the decade's counter-culture mythology.

Coming from New Jersey - a town that Bob Dylan describes as a place where "anything is legal as long as you don't get caught" - the band members had mob connections and were in and out of prison as they began their career singing beneath street lamps.

The Tony-award winning script by Woody Allen's collaborator Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice delivers some brilliantly funny and perceptive dialogue as the boys struggle against all kinds of odds to get their first break.

The larger-than-life personalities are vividly brought to life by a superb cast: Dion Bilios magnificently captures the other-worldly quality of Frankie Valli's soaring falsetto while Anthony Harkin brings plenty of swag to his portrayal of band leader Tommy DeVito.

Glaston Toft as the long-suffering bass player Nick Massi brings the house down with a hilarious rant about DeVito's personal hygiene and Declan Egan engagingly establishes that song writing genius Bob Gaudio came from a more genteel part of town.

Performances of the Four Seasons' impressive parade of hits are as sharp as a switch-blade and the large Australian cast testify to the strength of musical theatre across the ditch.

The show's only Kiwi connection, Vince Harder, delivers a blast of exuberant energy with a French rap version of Oh What a Night and brings an impish comic talent to a variety of cameo roles.

REVIEW

What: Jersey Boys.
Where: The Civic until June 17.

- NZ Herald

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