Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Barrack-Jones: Sherry Baby or Sherry Bottle? Or Both?

Jersey Boys –The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Music Bob Gaudio. Lyrics Bob Crewe. Lyric Theatre Brisbane. Tickets available until September 16.

Barrack-Jones here musing on that proverbial literary line from my old pal LP. Hartley who scribbled down ‘the past is a foreign country they do things differently there.’

That might be true of the distant past but strangely enough recent times – such as the 1960s – seem more like an alien world even though I was screwing around then (and I do mean that in a poet sense).

I remember walking through New Jersey in the fall of ’62 with a sassy girl on my arm and the prospect of seeing a movie and, perhaps later, winning her over with an ice cream bar.

The whole seduction was likely to cost 76 cents for two movie tickets – I think the film was  the sci-fi frightener The Blob – and an ice cream for 11 cents (I’d brought my own cream sherry hip flask).

 As we walked I heard four young men singing under a street light something about Sherry and wondering if they’d guessed what was in my  pocket.

Their Sherry was a girl, who had been woven into a song by Bon Gaudio for a new singing quartet The Four Seasons, and it was number one in what was then called the hit parade.

Now 50 years and 75 millions record sales later the boys are being recreated on stage in Brisbane in a celebration of their chequered story simply called Jersey Boys.

The show is the 19th longest running Broadway musical and has won a swag of awards including best musical in New York (a Tony) and London (an Olivier).

The songs are almost pumped out in heart racing fashion as one hit falls over another in a remarkable musical cavalcade which includes December ’63 (Oh What a Night), Ragdoll, Big Girls Don’t Cry. Walk Like a Man and the fifth most played tune on the wireless Can’t Take My Eyes of You.

The show would be a terrific concert with the songs alone, but it appears that these squeaky clean lads in button down shirts, drain pipe pants, neat ties and tight coats lived extremely colourful and sometimes dangerous lives

I know the feeling.

Their story, which includes violence, sex, profanity, murder and even jail along with runs-in with gangsters and on the home front, girlfriends and  families, reminds me of the time when we took our stories from the Bible.

Only the Old Testament – as demonstrated in the middle-ages in shows such the Wakefield Mystery Plays – had as much sex and violence and in-your-face confrontation as Jersey Boys.

When we toured our mystery plays, all those years ago, they were touted as objects of lessons in morality, but nowadays these melodramatic real-life stories are more a demonstration of how talent wins out over adversity.

(Oh how I miss the Middle Ages, although they were home to some of our most smelly centuries, but I digress.)

The boys, as depicted in the show,  have their up and downs – and three of them finally drop-out for various reasons – but the songs carry on (as does Frankie Valli) and everyone comes out of it smelling of roses.

As indeed my sassy friend and I did rolling around in the garden rose beds after the movie as the four boys’ mournful harmonies could still  be heard in the near distance.

Ah now romantic.

I believe that now Mr. Valli is 78 – and still playing somewhere – but yours truly (The Universal Thespian) is also just warming up and looking for new possibilities despite 1000 years on the road

I think I might return to the Lyric for another dose of Jersey Boys and see if maybe….Well there was a rather attractive young waitress in the foyer  bar ….but never you mind about that (as they say in Queensland). 

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