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Review: Jersey Boys

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Jersey Boys is a musical biography of the Four Seasons – the rise, the tough times and personal clashes, and the ultimate triumph of a group of friends whose music became symbolic of a generation. imdb

So it sounds like just another Glee-like bio-film right? Oh no, it’s not. If you read Anna’s article on Eric Bergen last week you may already know that. If you’ve read any other press you may know that the director, Clint Eastwood, says he did not make a musical, he made a drama … with music.

If you are one of the thousands of Australians who have seen the stage show, you definitely know it is much more than just their songs.

I saw the stage show and for all those wondering if it is as good, it absolutely is, and it is also different. The biggest difference being that the stage show is lighter in tone. Exactly the same material is covered but on stage it is said, it is done and the story moves on. On screen the camera can linger on a character’s face, on a moment in time, and highlight points of the story. A story that is unbelievable, life affirming, tragic and uplifting.

I left the stage show wanting to know more about The Four Seasons, particularly Bob Gaudio, Frankie Valli and their producer Bob Crewe. With Clint Eastwood’s film I feel as though some of that insight has been provided.

All these Bobs are a bit confusing, so let me help. First there is Bob Gaudio, seminal songwriter, Valli’s partner on just a handshake and the last member to join the group (played by Eric Bergen).  Mike Doyle, who plays the producer and lyricist Bob Crewe, is better known for dying in TV series but the (to me) largely unknown Crewe himself is a true renaissance man – and one of the best characters in the film.

The other Seasons are Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazzo), who starts the group but also ultimately betrays then and bass player and vocal trainer Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda). Vincent owns his character but, to be brutal, Michael is not as strong as the Nick I saw onstage.

Then there is Frankie (John Lloyd Young). So young when he started and still working now at 80 years old. Loyal and cavalier at the same time, as only an Italian from Jersey can be. He is blessed with otherworldy vocal chords, which Vincent starts as a bit reedy and improves as time progresses in their story. Bravo to both him and Mr. Eastwood on that one. Valli’s real life response to Tommy’s gambling still astounds me in the depth of honour and friendship shown.

The other characters are all well done, even those with very little screen time, and the costuming and sets are great to look at. There are some cute little nods to the times – a very young Eastwood, as Rowdy Yates in Rawhide, appears on TV in a hotel room, a character describes Andy Kaufman’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and yes, it’s that Joe Pesci.

Clint Eastwood does not make light, airy films but do not let this deter you – he stays very true to the stage show, even picking show veterans for the four leads, rather than well known film actors (another bravo), and finishing on a wonderfully high note. Sit right through the credits to enjoy the music.

If you have not seen the stage show you will still enjoy the film and if you have never heard of The Four Seasons – you are in for such a treat when you discover what amazing music they made.

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