SHOW: BYE BYE BABY
CAST: JAMIE LEDWITH, MITCHELL RUTTER, TIM KAY, DANIEL GODDARD
BAND: GARY MULLINS, DAN GILES, HENRY BURNETT, STEVE FAWBERT
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: MARC RYZER
MUSICAL SUPERVISOR : STEVE FAWBERT
CHOREOGRAPHER: SCOTT JENKINS
VENUE: MANDELA THEATRE AT JOBURG THEATRE UNTIL FEBRUARY 28
REVIEWER: PETER FELDMAN
The distinctive close harmony sounds of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons reverberated through the Mandela Theatre as another tribute show got underway.
This phenomenal group, who helped change the face of the musical landscape during the 1960s and 70s, have been immortalized in film and in the international hit show, ‘Jersey Boys’ which played to capacity audiences in South Africa a few years ago.
It would be odious to compare ‘Bye Bye Baby’ with the massive ‘Jersey Boys’ production, but suffice to say this showcase at least hits the right notes and for long stretches of the programme I enjoyed this nostalgic trip.
The four performers, all overseas imports, do a pretty fine job in replicating the intricate harmonies and falsetto vocals that were hallmarks of The Four Seasons.
Jamie Ledwith, as Frankie Valli, has the vocal abilities to recreate those great solos and he is ably backed by Tim Kay as Tommy DeVito, Mitchell Rutter as Bob Gaudio and Daniel Goddard as Nick Massi.
They trotted out one hit after another, backed by a solid band that, for a change, never drowned the vocalists and one could hear those famous lyrics clearly enough.
After a messy start, the four crooners got down to business, with various members sharing the solo spotlight, but it is the singing of Ledwith that really set the tone and his renditions were as close to the originals as possible.
The story of the group forms a thin link between the various songs and is obviously not as detailed as in the musical. Gems that caught the ear were Ledwith’s ‘My Mother’s Eyes,’ the evocative, toe-tapping ‘Sherry’ (with the whole team), ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry,’ ‘Walk Like A Man,’ ‘My Eyes Adored You’ and many more from the famous songbook.
Back projections highlighted the various numbers with images of the real group and covers from their hit-making albums.
The first set of the show I felt was better, as the level of intensity and sparkle seemed to drop somewhat in set two as the foursome worked their way through ‘December ’63,’ ‘Rag Doll,’ ‘Silence is Golden’ and the show’s title track, among others.
If there is a gripe it concerns the lack of genuine rapport at times between group and audience, caused for the most part by the members’ repetitive, robotic movements, which failed to whip up any kind of crowd frenzy. It was only towards the end that the audience managed to struggle to their feet and lend some party atmosphere to the occasion.
It’s a formula-driven show that will certainly appeal to the countless fans of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.