Pop­u­lar mu­si­cal re­turns to Stage West

Calgary Herald - - YOU - LOUIS B. HOB­SON

Like so many pop groups, Frankie Valli and his band­mates played the name game. They called them­selves ev­ery­thing from the Vari­a­tones, The Valli Boys and The Four Lovers be­fore set­tling on The Four Sea­sons.

In 2005, cour­tesy of the smash Broad­way juke­box mu­si­cal about their lives and ca­reers, Valli, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Bob Gau­dio be­came known as the Jersey Boys.

In the past 13 years, Jersey Boys the mu­si­cal has played to more than 30 mil­lion peo­ple in 10 coun­tries, boast­ing a world­wide gross of more than $2 bil­lion and was turned into a film in 2014 di­rected by Clint East­wood. It was named best mu­si­cal in both New York and Lon­don the year it opened in those cities.

The orig­i­nal run closed in 2017, but a new pro­duc­tion opened this year and is still play­ing. There are two tour­ing pro­duc­tions in North Amer­ica and Stage West was able to se­cure the Cana­dian re­gional theatre rights to the show and its pro­duc­tion runs un­til Feb. 3.

Play­ing Frankie Valli in Stage West’s ver­sion is 23-year-old Evan Tay­lor Beny­acar, who knows the pres­sure is on to match Valli vo­cally.

Valli is re­puted to have a fouroc­tave range and is the singer who hits all those high notes in The Four Sea­sons’ songs.

“I’m a tenor but I can get down to a bari­tone. I can hit most of the notes and for the ones I can’t I use a falsetto. What’s vi­tal is that I mimic those great Valli sounds, whether I do it through my chest or through a falsetto,” says Beny­acar, who was warned about Cal­gary’s dry air and the strain it puts on singers’ voices.

“I’m talk­ing as lit­tle as pos­si­ble, not drink­ing, def­i­nitely not smok­ing and hy­drat­ing my voice. I have a hu­mid­i­fier in my room and in my dress­ing room.

“You have to bring it on up there if you’re go­ing to play Frankie. You don’t ac­cept the role un­less you feel you can do that.”

Beny­acar says he was no stranger to the mu­sic of The Four Sea­sons as his par­ents were big fans.

“I heard the songs when I was very young and this is mu­sic that sticks with you the mo­ment you en­counter it. The tunes stay in your head and lyrics are not only pleas­ant to your ear but re­ally in­tel­li­gent.”

As for the mu­si­cal it­self, Beny­acar saw the orig­i­nal Toronto pro­duc­tion when he was in high school.

“I was hooked. I loved it and I think that’s what hap­pens for most peo­ple. It’s not just the songs that grab you but the story of these four men. We see their story from the four dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives and we wit­ness not just their in­cred­i­ble ups, but the smash­ing downs as well. It’s such a pow­er­ful story for a mu­si­cal.”

Beny­acar says one of the things that struck him most as he was re­hears­ing the show was “the sense of loy­alty and com­pan­ion­ship these four guys had. They are com­pletely dif­fer­ent peo­ple yet they formed such a strong bond. They were def­i­nitely not clones of each other and that makes for a richer story as well.”

In the Cal­gary pro­duc­tion of Jersey Boys, Beny­acar’s fel­low Sea­sons are played by Josh Wiles as Tommy DeVito, Jonathan Gys­bers as Bob Gau­dio and Tris­tan Her­nan­dez as Nick Massi.

It will be a bit of a re­union for Beny­acar, Wiles and Gys­bers after a sum­mer in Prince Ed­ward Is­land for the Charlottetown Fes­ti­val pro­duc­tion of Anne of Green Gables.

“Josh and Jonathan were both star­ring in the Fes­ti­val’s pro­duc­tion of Anne and Gil­bert, so meet­ing up in Cal­gary for Jersey Boys felt like a bit of a re­union.”

We see their story from the four dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives and we wit­ness not just their in­cred­i­ble ups, but the smash­ing downs as well.

Alex Kelly and Daniel Green­berg with Evan Tay­lor Beny­acar as Frankie Valli in Stage West’s Jersey Boys.

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