Four Seasons celebration New Jersey Nights in close harmony with Theatre Royal Plymouth
OH, WHAT a night for fans of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Actually, six of them. Nights that is, not seasons.
New Jersey Nights is the story and the music of one of the top-selling groups in pop history, and plays out next week at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Think lots of four-part harmony and falsetto singing but not much story.
This may be a theatre show but this night out is closer to a tribute act than, say, the hugely popular Buddy Holly story, Buddy.
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New Jersey Nights is doing quite well, thank-you, on the back of keeping the talking to a minimum, enjoying strong reviews and even mightier sales.
"It's a feel-good show that puts a smile on your face, when you are singing and when you are listener," says Damion Scarcella, who is in the former category as one of four singers who take turns to be the lead vocalist.
"It's got that feeling of the 1950s and 1960s, with songs that are really enjoyable to sing."
The hits are the stars. Among the two dozen or so are December 1963 (Oh What A Night), Sherry, Rag Doll, My Eyes Adored You and Big Girls Don't Cry.
Unlike West End show Jersey Boys, nobody is playing Frankie or his Four Seasons backers/bandmates.
"It's more of concert, a celebration, of their music," explains Damion. "There is some talking to the audience to explain the background, but we aren't 'in character'.
"There is an excellent band, six dancers and some set changes."
The chat gives the context, starting from the group's early days in the US state that give the show its title.
Putting the music first is what Damion does. The Australian is a high tenor who trained in classical voice at the Melba Conservatorium in his home city of Melbourne. His CV includes Gilbert and Sullivan (The Mikado) but his mainstay is retro pop, taking in Fame, Shout and Mamma Mia!.
He has spent the last five years singing and recording with the a cappella group The Flying Pickets (Only You was their big hit in 1983) and enjoyed solo success by going back to an even earlier period.
In 2009, he performed The Bowlly Years, based on the life of Al Bowlly, the South African crooner and band leader who enjoyed a career in Britain in the 1930s. Damion also has his own jazz set, which keeps him busy on the London circuit.
The 35-year-old is quite happy making a living out of singing songs that were either written before he was born or that he was too young to remember.
"They knew how to write music then," says Damion, harking back to the 1970s and earlier, and with nostalgia for those times, too.
"The music was simpler and lives were simpler, too.
"I wonder what I am going to sing and listen to from this era when I'm older.
And the answer? There's nothing that makes him think "oh, what a song".
"I really don't know."
New Jersey Nights is at the Theatre Royal Plymouth from Monday to Saturday night week.