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Wiloughby Theatre Company: Jersey Boys - Review by Daniel Conway

Have you ever known someone who is so talented that you low key hate them. Like you don't hate them because they are so lovely and nice and talented, you are just a little jealous of what they can do. For people who make theatre in Sydney, WTC is that person. Wiloughby is a leader in amateur theatre in Sydney and their production of Jersey Boys is proof as to why that is not a contentious claim. With technical elements that rival professional productions and world class performers, a Wiloughby show is never going to be bad, but even with the high bar they have set for themselves, Jersey Boys exceeds every single expectation. This review is going to be glowing because the only faults I could find on opening night were minor issues with a sign and some late microphone pick ups with dialogue.




 

The entire production team needs to be commended on what they have managed to accomplish. Court Cassar directorial vision is clear and apparent, and his use of the entire space was well done and created a fluid production. The truly impressive set, designed by Brenton Staples was used to perfection, using levels expertly and the interchangeable design was so clever and well executed. I am perhaps most impressed with the use of video screens. The incorporation of live video (or very well-rehearsed prerecorded) was very exciting to see in the amateur theatre space. Jersey Boys requires performers to switch from breaking the fourth wall to interacting in the scene very quickly and if not handled correctly this conceit can be stilted and suffer a pacing issue. Cassar has not such issue with the show that he has directed, while this is a massive credit to the performers, it was abundantly clear that Cassar and his team set a high bar for the show, and in my opinion cleared it with meters to spare!



As with all Jukebox musicals, the sound is critical to the success of the show and so the work of Peter Hayward as the musical director is to be celebrated. This show sounded phenomenal. The harmonies between the titular Jersey Boys, the coaching of the performers to have the sound required for the music and how tight the band was; every facet of the sound was exceptional. Arnold Andrews job as choreographer is also not to be overshadowed. This show takes place in specific a specific time and place and so the style of dance needs to be as well. It is also not always easy to make “simple” movements, like the ones the boys were doing look simple and unison. One foot out of place makes it look bad, these men, and everyone else, were clearly drilled into precision, to the benefit of everyone who has the pleasure to watch.



Before moving on the performers, I would be remiss to not shout out the stage crew, lead by Grey Batson and Costume Coordinator Sarah Dolan. The set was huge with so many moving parts and every transition was smooth and well executed. The costumes equally were so impressive. Era accurate clothing is important and the team lead by Dolan should all be so proud of the work they have done.





The titular Jersey Boys, for those unaware, are the original members of The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli (Luc-Pierre Tannous), Tommy Devito (Tommy Dee), Bob Gaudio (Sterling Nasa) and Nick Massi (Samuel Dobb). These four men are the centre of the show, their rapport and harmony are the very thing that will make or break a production; and if you have not been paying attention to the tone of this review, they have most defiantly made it. Tannous has the unenviable job of trying to sound like Frankie Valli, all while staying in character. Valli’s voice is ingrained in the zeitgeist along singers like Freddie Mercury and Amy Winehouse in terms of recognition and the vocal range required is astounding. Tannous is a so talented and charming on stage and more than fits the bill. Tommy Devito is a role that requires charm and Tommy Dee oozes it. Intensely likeable and with a killer voice Dee steers the first part of the narrative expertly and has some of my favour character work on stage. Nasa is so good as Bob Gaudio. He has a wonderful physicality and, in my opinion, does the best job at portraying the aging of his character as the narrative progresses. Dobb as Nick Massi is a comic force. Not a single person got more laughs from the audience then this man, his line delivery was perfection, and his low voice is gorgeous, like all good basses, he rounds the harmony of this group out perfectly. These four are expertly cast and are so good together that they fill the stage by themselves in the way that The Four Season themselves did.

 

But of course, they are not by themselves, they are surrounded by an incredibly talented company of people. Some notable faces are the women in Valli’s life, Mary Delgato (Dylan Hayley Rosenthal) and Lorraine (Isabella Schroder). Both women playing Valli’s love interests and I couldn’t help but think that I wish there were space in the script to give them more to do. This is Valli’s story, and the women don’t bare too much narrative weight, but these ladies, as well as Isha Desai and Valli’s daughter Fracine, make every second count and make their mark on the stage.  Other crowd favourites were Oliver Roach as the camp and hilarious Bob Crewe and Tim Gerber as Joe Pesci. Both men were a joy on that stage.





I could spend hours crafting this review mentioning every person involved. Every ensemble member who absolutely smashed their choreography and who gave some excellent face in scenes. I could mention every person listed in their technical roles, but I think at some point, and I worry that I have hit that already, the praise becomes redundant. This show is exceptional and it the best show from WTC since I have started to review theatre. I won’t mention every person, instead I will say this, if you do not go to see Jersey Boys you will be missing out. This production feels special and is full to the brim of the very best that amateur theatre has to offer.



I recommend this production to anyone who can’t decide on the name for their band, or I don’t know, maybe they should start a group of their own! You can catch WTC's Jersey Boys at The Concourse in Chatswood. For more information click on this link


Photography credit to Grant Leslie.

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2 Comments


Guest
May 20

I also agree with every word. One of the best performances that I have ever seen. Totally transported and felt like i was actually watching Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The live video screens were amazing (I asked and was told that they were actually live feeds- so fabulous)

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Guest
May 20

I agree with every word of this review. Such a fantastic show.

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