Too Good To Be True: Backstage With The Jersey Boys

Over 25 million people have seen Jersey Boys around the world, now it's Australia's turn to welcome back the musical that men want to see and women can't get enough of.

What you need to know
  • Jersey Boys opens at The Capitol Theatre in Sydney from September and will begin in Brisbane and Melbourne in 2019
  • The musical spent 11 years on Broadway, making it the 12th longest running show in history
  • More men buy tickets to Jersey Boys than any other musical

In a rehearsal room in Sydney CBD, four actors are being put through their paces, singing, dancing and acting. Every detail of the complex choreography is taken into account, every note sung is critiqued under the eagle eye of producers and the focus of the cast is steadfast.

It's only the first week of rehearsals for the Australian production of Jersey Boys but it's this kind of attention to detail that has made the musical a worldwide phenomenon.

Jersey Boys tells the true tale of The Four Season's roller coaster ride to fame. In a story that is like Franki Valli sang, "Too good to be true", audiences discover that underneath the group's unmistakable sound, was the gritty backstage story of how they graduated from the rough streets of New Jersey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jersey Boys ran for 11 years on Broadway. Image: Getty.

Australia got its first taste of the musical in 2009, when it ran for four years and won two Helpmann Awards. More than 1.6 million of us embraced the story of the talented hooligans who found time in between jail and messing with the mafia to release some of the most iconic songs of the 1960s.

The Australian cast is made up of a mixture of new talent and seasoned professionals who are hungry to live up to the hype.

Bob Guadio was the final member to join The Four Seasons and newcomer  Thomas McGuane is taking on that role.

"Coming into it as a newbie, across the board, there’s a great responsibility to tell this story as truthfully as possible," he told ten daily.

Thomas McGuane plays Bob Gaudio, the songwriting genius who penned most of the bands hits. Image: ten daily.

The most vocally difficult role of the show is lead singer Frankie Valli -- Bernard Angel earned his place as the understudy for Valli in previous productions and he's now ready to own the starring role.

"I’m not having to fit in with how someone else does it, it’s mine," Angel said in between nailing songs.

He has the demanding task of capturing Valli's unique sound, performing almost 30 songs in the show.

Bernard Angel plays Frankie Valli, the lead singer with the unique voice that record executives had no idea what to do with. Image: ten daily.

It's a role John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony for his turn playing Frankie Valli on Broadway, described as training like an athlete to perfect.

"If you want the show to be a hit and you’re putting in that effort it's exhausting... there’s nothing harder," Young told ten daily while performing in New York.

The cast understands the challenge that lies ahead and their passion for the story is obvious.

Glaston Toft plays Nick Massi, the band's dark horse who walked away at the height of their fame.

Glaston Toft returns to the role of Nick Massi, the deep voice who quit the band during the height of their fame. Image: ten daily.

He's played Massi almost 1400 times in productions around the world and still can't get enough.

"I get such a kick out of it, being back here has been so exciting, going over this amazing music," Toft said.

Cameron MacDonald returns to the role of wise cracking Tommy DeVito, who got the group into a mountain of debt with the mafia and he embraces DeVito wholeheartedly.

"He allows you to access things that you’re not really allowed to do, like be a bit of a rock star, he’s a lovable ruffian," he said.

Cameron MacDonald plays Tommy DeVito, the manager of the band who buried them in a mountain of debt to help fund their first few years. Image: ten daily.

The production is carefully monitored by Richard Hester who has been responsible for international productions of show since the beginning and his enthusiasm for the show hasn't faded.

"Every time I think ‘oh 14 years, I can’t possibly do this again’ I meet the guys from casting them and get excited to do it all over again," Hester said.

The appeal of the musical may initially stem from the catchy tunes, that we defy you to listen to without singing along but Hester believes it's story that makes it stand out from other jukebox musicals.

In 2014 Clint Eastwood directed the film version of the musical. Image: Getty.

"There is something about our story, the four boys who against all odds, struggle to achieve something in a society that doesn’t necessarily want them to achieve it and succeed against all of their expectations, that is universal," he said.

MacDonald isn't surprised Australia is craving another round -- "I think Australian audiences really connect with the boys and their underdog status, we really appreciate people who made it when they had no right to ,"

Just one week in and the Aussie cast are camera ready. Image: ten daily.

"If you've never seen Jersey Boys, you’re in for a treat." Hester said and he's quick to welcome back existing fans as well.

"If you’ve seen Jersey Boys before, you haven’t seen this Jersey Boys."

Contact the author: ncarroll@networkten.com.au