Nov 22, 2012

[Theater] Jersey Boys (Marina Bay Sands)

As I've blogged about a few times, I'm not a huge fan of travel. I typically need the encouragement of friends to get me to want to visit a new location  and even then I need to be assured of an internet connection.

But one thing that does make travel is theater. And this is especially true for musical theater. And with bigger and better shows making their way to places like the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, I find myself traveling a wee bit more than before.

And when news that Jersey Boys was coming to Singapore, I found myself booking a plane that very week, if not that very day. And the show was as awesome as I had hoped it to be.

Synopsis: Jersey Boys is the Tony Award winning jukebox musical about the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The musical, based on the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, involves music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe. The original Broadway production won several Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical. This Singapore production was staged at the Marina Bay Sands Theater care of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions.

Given this is a show about the famous rock / pop band The Four Seasons, the story is also divided into the seasons Spring and Summer making up Act I and Fall and Winter making up Act II. Each story segment is predominantly narrated by one of the members, who directly address the audience. And thus we are taken through the years as we witness the birth of the group, their rise to fame and their eventual decline with their amazing music helping to tell the story.

And what a musical experience it was. I'm glad that we were able to catch it despite the madness of opening night.

You see, jukebox musicals tend to in one of two main directions. You have the documentary-style story that aims to go through the life (or lives) of the artist with the songs somehow telling the story. Or you have the fictional pieces that just use the songs as the framework for a completely original tale, like Mamma Mia! and other plays. But more often than not it becomes a struggle between the songs and the story. The parts where we watch the actors, well, act, the story tends to drag a bit. But then if you give way to the music even more, sometime things stop making sense and you lose the narrative flow.

Jersey Boys, to me, feels like the perfect jukebox musical - a story that manages to remain a powerful presence in the production while still balancing the joys of the music. This was truly a celebration of the story of the lives of these four men and the amazing music that they managed to create together. The pacing of the narrative flowed precisely with the music - thus you had fairly quick and succinct speaking bits whether as narrators or just as the characters that they represented and then the next song would play to grand effect. And truly, the music worked very well every time it came in. The songs just made so much sense that way.

The bulk of the more obvious humor naturally came from Tommy DeVito, as played by Daniel Buys. Of the four he had the best New Jersey accent, which was sort of critical to a lot of the humor. Plus he was a naturally chatty character and thus the lion share of the comedic lines went his way. This is not to say the others weren't funny, especially when you consider an obvious fan favorite Nick Massi, who was played by Emmanuel Castis. He may not have spoken as much, but he did have some great moments that send the audience laughing. Thus major kudos to the writer as well for keeping the dialog fresh and witty all throughout the production.

Naturally a lot of the show rode on the shoulders of Grant Almirall, who played Frankie Valli. And beyond his shorter stature, he certainly had the vocal range to carry the music of the show. He wasn't quite on key every single moment, but that may have been more due to first night jitters or whatever you want to call it. And as a group they were a lot of fun and every song number really had the house cheering.

The production itself was surprisingly awesome. What starts as a bare stage was magically transformed into so many different scenes with the various actors themselves needing to cart in their own props and set pieces. And I'm not talking about transitions done in the comfort of the dark. We had them zooming in and out of every scene with drummers on rotating platforms and mike stands seemingly floating onto the stage as if by magic. And match that with the dynamic lighting and you get quite the show indeed.

Jersey Boys is an amazing musical experience, especially for anyone who has grown up with classic songs like Walk Like a Man or Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You. And this touring cast certainly did The Four Seasons justice. Thus I'm happy to rate this production a full 5 nuggets of New Jersey wisdom out of a possible 5.

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  1. Marina Bay Sands always came in with the best shows and now it's the Jersey Boys turn to entertain at MBS. I'm sure everybody was delighted by their show.

  2. I wanted to see Jersey Boys when we were in Vegas last month as it was running in Paris Hotel. How great that it is in Singapore! How long will it be showing in Marina Bay? Have you heard if they will bring this to Manila?