Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Review: Jersey Boys at Montecasino

Last year I told you how I love musical theatre, and how so many of the traditional shows hold great memories for me. Well, a week or so back, I was privileged to see a 'new' show that created a whole bunch of new memories - Jersey Boys, on at Montecasino until Sunday 9 June 2013.

I'd heard of Franki Valley and the Four Seasons, but didn't realise just how much of their music has made it into just about every generation and genre of music - and its in this that I think much of the show's appeal lies: even if you weren't around in the 50s or 60s or even 70s yet, you will recognise the songs, and you'll be heard pressed not to tap your feet or get up and jig along wildly along with the music. 

The show is more than just music though - it's the tale of four young men who drag themselves out of one of America's toughest neighborhoods through their music. It's not as simple as it sounds - there were several bands that didn't work out, several name changes, several women, several disastrous events - but clever lyrics, simple but catchy tunes, and Franki Valley's sheer determination to sing, all make a great story. 

We were lucky enough to be taken on a backstage tour before the show, and I reckon such a thing should be compulsory for every theatre guest! If you've ever wondered why tickets to productions like this are a tad on the pricey side, having an understanding into what goes into putting them together will make you think that they're cheap at the price. 

This production of Jersey Boys is one of nine running all over the world at the moment - and every production is tightly managed to be exactly the same as all the others - whether it's the set, the costumes, the voices, or the music. Everything is authentic - so the 1950s TV cameras you see on stage are actual 1950s TV cameras, that have been hunted down and restored, for example. The outcome of this almost obsessive attention to detail? The show at Montecasino is right up there with Phantom of the Opera, and other international standard productions I've been lucky enough to see. 

Backstage is a veritable labyrinth of technology, wardrobe, instruments and props, with everything timed literally to the second, to tie in with the music. Interestingly, in order to get the best sound quality possible, there is no orchestra in the orchestra pit - the musicians do their work from two very sound proofed rooms under the stage, and their sheer talent and scope is quite something to marvel at. One gentleman we spoke to plays five woodwind instruments during the show - some of that from their room, and some on the stage. 

My only criticism of the show - and it's a common one with international productions here - is that the casts' American accents slipped quite often, leading to an odd mix of New York and Johannesburg. I completely understand the quest for authenticity in this show and others, but I sometimes wonder if it wouldn't just be less complicated for the actors to keep to local is lekker when it comes to enunciation. I must confess to missing quite a few words because of this. However, given that each of the three female actresses has up to 11 roles to play during the show, with the quickest wardrobe change being seven seconds, I reckon it's pretty acceptable for the occasional accent slip here and there. 

Overall, Jersey Boys is well worth checking out - the voices are incredible, the music is great, and the set is very cleverly done. It's a great treat night out for music and theatre lovers of any age. When it's done at Montecasino's Teatro, Jersey Boys heads to Cape Town, where it will be open from 19 June 2013. 

Disclosure: I attended Jersey Boys as a guest of Tsogo Sun. My views and opinions are my own.