Last night my wife and I attended a performance of Jersey Boys at the Toronto Centre for the Arts way up in North York. It was a special Media Event, which means that we truly were 'guests'. Now I must confess that I've never been much of a fan of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons based on their records playing in between songs of the British Invasion during the '60s. No, I was a definite Beatles fan, it was Gerry & the Pacemakers, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and so on for me. None of that show-biz glitz that Frankie and the boys put out. I should also say that I never owned a Four Seasons record. Not one. As best I can recall, not even a random song on a soundtrack album made it into my collection. Until last night that is.
Upon checking in at the theatre we received 2 CDs (The Very Best of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Jersey Boys the soundtrack), more Valli than I ever imagined. Over pre-show drinks in the bar Alan Cross spoke about the importance of the Four Seasons in the on-going history of new music. While admitting that they were "a bit outside [his] normal area of expertise" he gave a potted history of their accomplishments that made them sound important to the younger journalists who had attended. We elders smiled and nodded.
As the show began (with a hip-hop rendition of "Oh, What a Night" entitled "Ces Soirees-la") my heart sank. I couldn't make out the rap, and the sound was loud and muddy. Then the actor playing Tommy DeVito appeared and commenced his story, and from that moment on, I was hooked. The production was marvelous. The story engaging. And the music, which I had never warmed up to in nearly 50 years, seemed perfect for this kind of presentation. I developed an appreciation for the compositional skills of Bob Gaudio (et al) and, well...I'm a sucker for good harmony singing anyway. The show had me. And it kept me too. Right to the end.
Just enough good humour, and historical accuracy to keep a music historian (even an amateur one) interested...and the music. I can't say enough about it. I left the theatre, like everyone else, humming or singing the songs.
"Oh, What a Night" indeed!