Arts

Published: Thursday April 17, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday April 17, 2014 MYT 11:32:14 AM

Jersey Boys: Life of the party

Let’s rock ‘n’ roll: South African actors Grant Almirall (left, playing Frankie Valli) and Kenneth Meyer (Bob Gaudio) burning up the stage at as they cranked up the Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons jukebox in the Jersey Boys musical at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur.

Let’s rock ‘n’ roll: South African actors Grant Almirall (left, playing Frankie Valli) and Kenneth Meyer (Bob Gaudio) burning up the stage at as they cranked up the Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons jukebox in the Jersey Boys musical at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur.

Jersey Boys came to our shores with unforgettable songs, admirable acting and colourful drama.

"Jersey's great, you got some of the finest prisons around!” proclaimed Tommy DeVito, one of the members of the 1960s pop group The Four Seasons, on stage at the Jersey Boys musical at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday night.

DeVito, who is played by actor Daniel Buys, is just the sort of smarty-pants character to entertain the masses with his streetwise attitude and big heart. Throughout this Broadway musical, his fellow bandmates – Frankie Valli, DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi – were no less witty, charming and street savvy.

Essentially, this was the tell-all tale of these Italian-American bruisers from New Jersey who rose from their dingy hometown bars and made themselves pop stars.

During the height its chart-bustin' career, The Four Seasons were no strangers to fast cars and fast living as told in the musical biography 'Jersey Boys.'
During the height its chart-bustin' career, The Four Seasons were no strangers to fast cars and fast living as told in the musical biography 'Jersey Boys.'

Jersey Boys, which is a musical biography of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, has been hailed as one of the best behind-the-music histories to hit the stage. And deservedly so.

On its opening night here, Jersey Boys’ The Four Seasons definitely rolled out a warm-hearted show to write home about.

Here was a story filled with drama, redemption and friendship. And not to forget a truckload of hit singles that got the crowd swaying in their seats.

The audience was hooked right from the start of Jersey Boys, especially with the Frankie Valli lead role ably handled by angel-voiced actor Grant Almirall.

This fabulous quartet had me with their hilarious banter and very well-written script. It was like reliving classic punchlines from TV comedies like Taxi and Happy Days, with a bit of mobster cool lifted from Goodfellas, Mean Streets, or the Godfather trilogy thrown into the mix. Add the hand gestures, slicked back hair, pinky rings and three-piece suits.

I knew immediately I was set for an entertaining two-and-a-half-hour (black Cadillac) ride, what more being a huge comedy fan.

Amidst the mob connections, punch-ups and a good amount of slapstick, it was still down to the heartfelt story to keep the audience interested. Of course, we couldn’t forget the group’s music – which remains the main draw of this musical. Meeting the required vocal strengths of Frankie Valli (and his height – he was shortest of the four) was South African actor Almirall, 35, who brought Valli’s character to life, while pulling off the multi-octave vocal feats in style. What was even more wonderful was how this expert stage performer blended himself into Valli’s life and offered the viewers a true insight of his roots. So what you saw on stage was a real-life development of Valli’s amazing vocals and how it matured right up to the very last performance in the group.

All four cast members, who played their respective Four Seasons’ roles, narrated their stories with their individual spin. That offered unique storytelling angles on the group’s journey to stardom.

The boys finally find a name fitting for the band - The Four Seasons.
The boys finally find a name fitting for the band - The Four Seasons.

The other 33 members on stage also took on their roles effortlessly. Of course, the story spans over 50 years and therefore the show zipped along at quite a rapid pace and surprisingly enough, reflected all four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter. Metaphors for the highs and lows of this group, perhaps?

But fret not, Jersey Boys was easy to follow and it was filled with entertaining dances, amazing singing and acting.

Throughout the show, the crowd enjoyed more than 30 beloved songs associated with The Four Seasons’ career. Much excitement came from Sherry, the band’s first US-released single and No. 1 US hit in 1962. This track was then followed by two other US number one’s – Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like A Man. And there you had it, the famous quartet who gatecrashed the music scene in the US, claimed their number ones and sold millions of records, before the British Invasion in 1963. Later on came the feuds, bitter jealousies, and personal tragedies in The Four Seasons.

No further spoilers, but if there was a big musical moment, then it would be Almirall’s take on one of Valli’s most famous solo performances – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, which raised the roof at Istana Budaya. Of course, the party mood got even better when electrifying tunes such as Beggin’, December 1963 (Oh What a Night), Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye), and My Eyes Adored You were cranked up. Beyond the great musical jukebox, the Jersey Boys stage show ran through all the emotions – sad, funny and truly inspirational.

Just the right tonic to lift your spirits! The standing ovation from Istana Budaya (at the end of the night) said it all about the enduring appeal of Jersey Boys, a musical that keeps on giving.

> Jersey Boys is showing at Istana Budaya, Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur till April 27. Showtimes are 8.30pm and 3pm (matinees). For tickets, go to www.ticketcharge.com.my or call the hotline: 03-9222 8811. For more info on the show, visit www.facebook.com/jerseyboys.malaysia. Jersey Boys is organised by Milestone Production Sdn Bhd. 

The Star is the gold sponsor and Red FM is the official radio station. The Star readers can enjoy a 20% discount on all ticket categories. Just key in the promo code: “STAR” when purchasing via www.ticketcharge.com.my or at outlets.


Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, Jersey Boys; Stage Musical; Istana Budaya

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