Tuesday 6 January 2015

Jersey Boys is a blast at the Place des Arts; what musicals are on tap next?

I recently returned from New York City, the home of the world’s most outstanding Broadway musicals where I saw Idina Menzel in If/Then.  Last summer I was in London, England, home of the famous West End live theatre scene and got tickets for the spectacular Miss Saigon. A year ago it was Toronto, thanks to Mirvish Entertainment’s thriving scene and Les Miserables.

Montreal gets Broadway musicals in bits and pieces. Last summer The Lion King returned here for an extended run at the Place des Arts. In December we had the fabulous Book of Mormon. This week the  Tony and Grammy Award winning musical Jersey Boys is on tap for with eight shows through January 11. What a treat! I attended Tuesday’s Montreal premiere and it was a blast!
A scene from Jersey Boys The Musical.

Jersey Boys won a Tony for Best Musical and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album in 2006. It is the true story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks who became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time.  They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide - all before they were 30. The show features all their hits including Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Oh What A Night, Walk Like A Man, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and  Working My Way Back To You. I am 52 years old, so I was very young when their rise to fame occurred. Nonetheless,  I grew up with each of these songs in my head. It didn’t hurt watching the hit show Happy Days in the 70s. Basically, what  Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons produced were timeless and the appreciative Place des Arts audience ate every number up.

The lead cast members are Hayden Milanes (Frankie Valli), Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito) and  Keith Hines (Nick Massi) and Toronto native Drew Seeley (Bob Gaudio) as The Four Seasons, with Barry Anderson (Bob Crewe) and Thomas Fiscella (Gyp DeCarlo). Ensemble members include Tommaso Antico, Jaycie Dotin, Marlana Dunn, De’Lon Grant, Wes Hart, Bryan Hindle, Austin Owen, John Rochette, Leslie Rochette, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Kara Tremel, Jonny Wexler and Keith White. I thought Milanes was excellent as the lead and the loud ovation he got from the audience seemed to confirm that thought. The story of the Four Seasons is not all sugar and spice and the musical pulls no punches.

Gaudio was a performing member between 1962 and 1972, after which he largely retired from stage work while continuing to write and arrange their songs and to produce and perform on their records.  He wrote the music for Jersey Boys

The national tour of Jersey Boys opened in San Francisco on December 1, 2006. Eight years later it is still going strong in cities across North America and the United Kingdom.  The show is presently playing on a regular basis in New York, Las Vegas and London.

 “I grew up with these songs playing around the house,”   Seeley shared with me a few weeks ago. “My parents exposed me to all kinds of music early on. I never realized they we all  Four Seasons songs though. It’s incredible how many hits these guys had! There are 30-something in the show, and there is a slew more that they couldn’t even make time for. They need a ‘Jersey Boys 2 - The Musical.”

Seeley, who only joined the cast last fall, is pleased that the audience can count on lots of action on the stage. “It’s the kind of show where the audience is in it with us from the start,” he explains.  “People dance and sing in their seats, it’s a real concert. But that’s not to say there’s no story. I think what’s kept Jersey Boys going strong for 10 years now is the fact that the book is as strong as the music. It’s a well-rounded, awe-inspiring piece of theatre.”

Shows continue through Friday, January 9 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, January 10 at 2 p.m. and  8 p.m. and Sunday, January 11 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For more information on Jersey Boys, go to www.JerseyBoysTour.com,  www.placedesarts.com, www.evenko.ca or call 1-866-842-2112.  The show is two hours and 35 minutes. Tickets are priced   from $25 to $134 (taxes included). 

According to Nick Farkas at evenko,which brings us the big Broadway shows, we might not have another musical here in 2015, “but we have a lot in the pipeline foe 2016.”

Forever Plaid hits the Segal Centre February 1 to 22. The hallmark doo-wop musical will be showcased in a delightfully nostalgic and visually entertaining new production from the producers of Belles Soeurs: The Musical and Ain’t Misbehavin’ !   

Ezio Carosielli has more fun planned for his Rialto Theatre in 2015. “We just finished restoring the façade and have installed a breathtaking lighting system,” he tells me.   “For  upcoming events we have Gino Vannelli returning  April 17 amnd 18; The Edwards Twins on June 6,  and  a wonderful tribute to Frank Sinatra on June 20. We also  have our regular monthly dinner/show of PastaNapoli and PastaOpera. The chef is an opera singer so you eat between opera sets. It’s a must see.”

Idina Menzel
Idina Menzel will be at Place des Arts on September 1 as part of her North American  concert tour. I caught her solo show in Boston a few years ago and she really  blows the audience away with her energy, charisma and of course that unique singing voice. She is hot on the heels of a remarkable year that included performing the smash hit “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen at the 86th annual Academy Awards and her  triumphant return to Broadway in the musical If/Then,  Menzel was the voice of Elsa in   Frozen,  the highest-grossing animated movie of all time. Ruben Fogel is the local promoter.  For ticket info click here.

There is also plenty of community musical theatre to experience. I am hoping the evenko team surprises us with a few more musicals this year.

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