Review: Jersey Boys, QPAC

Virginia Balfour

Ten years on from its Australian debut, Jersey Boys has returned to a well-deserved standing ovation in Brisbane.
Review: Jersey Boys, QPAC
The cast of Jersey Boys. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Charting the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys intertwines the back story of the band with a sound track of their hits over four acts, predictably named after the four seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter.

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The script is based on interviews with surviving band members and as the writers say, it is not so much based on a true story as a good story. The story charts the boys’ rise, from blue collar workers and petty criminals in the Italian immigrant projects of New Jersey to international stardom. Band frictions and the stresses of life on the road eventually take its toll on their personal lives and lead to the band breaking up. It’s an interesting and engaging story, and one that makes you understand how much hard work and dogged determination it took to become famous. As Tommy DeVito (Cameron MacDonald) says, if you were a boy from New Jersey in the 1950s, your only routes out were to join the mafia, go to prison or become famous. 

There are plenty of interesting facts thrown in to the story mix, too. Some, like the band’s need to pay off debts run up by band member Tommy DeVito, and the tragic death of Frankie’s daughter, are well documented. The script also includes many other interesting anecdotes, though, like Frankie spelling his invented second name with an ‘i’ because, as his girlfriend says, all Italian words end in a vowel – like pizza.

But it’s the music the audience have really come to hear, and from the opening sequence, when the audience is encouraged to clap along, this production doesn’t disappoint. All the hits are there – ‘Sherry’, ‘Rag Doll’, ‘Walk Like a Man’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ – and many others besides.

The cast of Jersey Boys. Photo by Jeff Busby.

The all- Australian cast are outstanding. Ryan Gonzalez is an impressive Valli. Close your eyes and you’ll think you are listening to the real thing. The other cast members are equally impressive, with good performances all round. Cameron MacDonald’s Tommy DeVito pushes the story along at a pace with a well-timed and charismatic performance as the likeable rogue member of the band. Glaston Toft as Nick Massi, the band’s bass guitarist gives a solid performance true to character. Thomas McGuane, who plays Bob Gaudio, the band’s talented songwriter and keyboard player (who went on to write for Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond) also gives a commendable performance.

As an ensemble, the cast works with slick precision. The action takes us to various locations where the band created their sound – nightclubs, restaurants and even a church. With stylish direction, score and scripting, there is plenty of room for the hits to shine.

In the final scene Valli, reflecting on the best moment for him says: ‘When everything dropped away and all there was was the music. That was the best.’  This production certainly makes you feel that. The music is very good, and really there is only one phrase to sum it up; Oh what a night!

5 stars ★★★★★
Jersey Boys 

Presented by Dodger Theatricals, Rodney Rigby and TEG Dainty
Directed by Des McAnuff
Ryan Gonzalez as Frankie Valli
Cameron MacDonald as Tommy DeVito
Thomas McGuane as Bob Gaudio
Glaston Toft as Nick Massi

Lyric Theatre, QPAC
5 January - 17 February 2019

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Virginia Balfour is a Brisbane-based journalist.