‘Jersey Boys‘ was spectacular.
The spotlight shone brightly at Spotlight Theatrical Company’s Halpin Auditorium for the opening night of ‘Jersey Boys’. Nestled in the heart of the Gold Coast, The Halpin Auditorium came alive with the songs of The Four Seasons, as the cast proficiently and histrionically narrated the creation, success, and break-up of the 1960s rock ‘n’ roll group.
‘Jersey Boys’ (2005) is a jukebox musical that dramatically retells the story of The Four Seasons in a documentary-style structured in four segments, with each section pertaining to the seasons. Each member of the group narrates a season, which provides a fresh perspective on the music and events taking place. With music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the musical successfully ran on Broadway from 2005-2017, has had many productions and tours around the world, and has been nominated and won awards including three Tony Awards in 2006 and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 2009. The production has received many other accolades throughout its performance history.
The Halpin Auditorium is a remarkable theatre space, with a broad range of lighting equipment and effects. Lighting designer, Wes Bluff, and audio-visual designers, Henry Mota and Iria Xoubanova, (Mindroom Innovations) expertly used the equipment to both heighten the narrative and foreshadow events. The main technical effect used throughout the show was a projector screen at the back of the theatre. Pop-art inspired graphics (skilfully created by IRH Designs) were projected on the back of the screen to show the change of season and aid in presenting the various locations of the cast members on stage. The projector was also used during scenes when The Four Seasons were filming their hit singles on TV. A pre-recorded projection of The Four Seasons was shown on the screen, which was edited to appear inside an era-appropriate TV monitor. Cast on stage mirrored what was being displayed through the projector, which added to the overall effect of the scene. Another example of effective AV use was during the song “Dawn (Go Away)”. The Four Seasons turned to face the back of the theatre while overhead stadium-like lights shone on the audience, accompanied by an image projection of those lights. Mixing these two effects together completely changed the atmosphere in the theatre and created an unforgettable moment
Sound design was impressive throughout the performance. Audio designer, John Taylor, and associate audio designer, Nick Willner, intelligently mixed and manipulated the cast members’ vocals to aid storytelling. Examples of this included adding reverb effects to the characters’ voices when they were inside a church, lowering the volume of the cast members on stage while another character was narrating, and giving the narrators’ voices a boost in their sound to differentiate between direct address and dialogue.
The set of ‘Jersey Boys’ was minimal but effective. Designed by Cilla Scott and Brad Kendrick, the set had a long catwalk that lined the edge of stage right, which led upstage and across the back wall of the stage. This was accompanied by a functional streetlamp on stage left and a projector screen just above the catwalk. The band was placed underneath the catwalk at the back of the stage and stayed there for most of the show. This placement was changed when a section of the brass band walked up to the top of the catwalk and jammed out as action continued on the stage. The cast could access the catwalk from three staircases: one off-stage and two on-stage; one located upstage-left and the other (a beautiful spiral staircase) found downstage-right.
Props and costuming were both incredibly detailed and specifically designed and selected for the era. Costumes were managed by Cilla Scott, Bridie Hannabach, and Judith Dautel, who all showcased their attention to detail and knowledge of the era through their choices. Some costumes even matched the original Broadway production; including The Four Seasons, who were seen sporting their iconic looks throughout the show.
Props by Ann and Russell Williams were also very detailed and displayed functionality that added a special touch to the overall appearance of the show. Standouts included a recording booth, complete with sound-dampening foam, a functional “recording” sign and light indicator used when the individuals in the sound booth were communicating with those inside the recording studio, and an era-appropriate television camera that had a “viewfinder screen” that would light up before the stage was lit.
Directors Cilla Scott and Brad Kendrick showed directorial skill, intelligence and attention to detail. Using the staircases for blocking throughout the show lifted the production. Moments of detail included directing cast members to perform their lines either sitting on the staircase or standing and resting halfway up the spiral staircase, which gave more or less attention and status to the cast member as needed.
Matthew Pearson displayed great skill with teaching the complex and beautiful harmonies that are synonymous with the iconic Four Seasons sound. Pearson implemented ingenuitive skill to ensure the band and cast members stayed in sync with their mirrored projection in parts of the show.
Choreographer, Paula Guild, created captivating and detailed choreography for the entire cast, inspired by the original Broadway production. Guild showcased her skills with both small, simple choreographic pieces and big, showstopper numbers. An incredible highlight was the choreography for The Four Seasons.
The Jersey Boys of the show were standouts in both characterisation and talent. They were all a lively bunch to watch on stage. Bryn Jenke, as Franki Valli, was perfectly cast for the role. The audience marvelled at his falsetto, and his stature and detail in his character made him all the more enjoyable to watch. It was clear that Jenke already commanded the theatre, but he stole the show when he started belting out the chorus to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”. The atmosphere in the theatre was transformed into that of a concert hall, which captivated audiences and made for a magic moment on stage.
Clay English played the devious Tommy DeVito, bringing a strong and intimidating personality to life on the stage. Nic Massi was played by Brad Kendrick, who also directed the show. His low bass notes were incredible, and he brought a funny and likeable aura to this character. Mitch Walsh, as Bob Guardio, brought a bright innocence, portraying Bob as very green, which gave the character a refreshing difference compared to his counterparts. All four performers were exceptionally talented and excellently cast.
Rory Impellizzeri was able to showcase his skill in portraying two featured and one supporting character throughout the show; Nick DeVito, Hank Majewski, and the intelligent and flamboyant Bobby Crewe. Impellizzeri skillfully created three contrasting characters, bringing creativity and individuality to them all.
Bradley Chapman played the enthusiastic and talkative Joe Pesci. Chapman was memorable in bringing humorous and lovable energy to Joe.
The ensemble of ‘Jersey Boys’ wasn’t seen much on stage, but when they were, they packed a punch. Jordan Boyd, who also played Francine and an Angel, showcased a brilliant personality and strong detail every time she appeared onstage. Another standout was Liam Lockwood, who brought an infectious energy to every moment.
‘Jersey Boys’ at Spotlight Theatrical Company has brought everyone together to refresh, reignite the love and reintroduce The Four Seasons to audiences of the Gold Coast and surrounds.
‘Jersey Boys’ performs until Saturday, 20 March at The Halpin Auditorium. For more information, visit their website.