He had one of the most distinctive voices of the doo-wop rock ‘n roll era.
Jersey boy Frank Valli, a singer in ‘60s-’70s boy band The Four Seasons, hit notes so high they could shatter a beer bottle.
His high-pitched vibrato rang true on such timeless songs as Sherry, Walk Like a Man, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Who Loves You, December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)… the list is a long one when it comes to these American legends.
To a younger generation, Valli is probably best known for singing the title track off the musical film Grease while, more recently, he and The Four Seasons were the subjects of the 2006 Tony award winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys.
There’s no doubt the music, and voice, lives on as the Vegas touring show, OH WHAT A NIGHT! A Musical Tribute To Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons will prove as it makes its way through B.C. this month. It stops at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Thursday.
“Frankie had an amazing voice and range. He comes from the same era as Smokey (Robinson) and Diana (Ross), where the voice was simple and conveyed a message. Those voices were instantly recognizable. They are legends that are still going strong,” said George Solomon, a Motown producer and creative consultant who wrote the show.
Solomon should know about voices.
Not only has he worked with some of the greats (Robinson, Liza Minnelli, George Michael, Harry Connick Jr. and Tina Turner among them), he’s performed some of Valli’s songs himself while doing a solo act in his hometown of Las Vegas.
When asked what a singer needs to do to be able to sing like Valli, Solomon has a few suggestions:
“Wear extremely tight underwear,” he laughed. “But seriously, it’s important to be well rested to be able to sing like that every night.”
That advice came in handy when Solomon, award-winning director/producer Michael Chapman and choreographer Paul Holmquist set out to create their own tribute show to Valli and The Four Seasons five years ago. Solomon got busy writing the script and later they started auditioning actor/singers in Vegas.
What started as four men singing all those Four Seasons’ hits in Sin City has now grown to 40 performers bringing the show to stages around the world.
The cast tries to stay true to the original recordings without trying to mimic or impersonate The Four Seasons, said Solomon, adding there is no lip syncing in the show.
“There is that dynamic range without having to resort to American Idol vocal gymnastics,” said Solomon, adding, “What makes the show unique is that it’s not just about a soloist with three guys, everyone sings lead. The harmonies are what make this music so incredible. We follow the classics from the ‘60s and the story is communicated in the lyric. They sing the notes that Valli sang.”
There is also the obvious confusion that comes with OH WHAT A NIGHT! and the Broadway and touring hit Jersey Boys.
Except for the songs, Solomon says there is no comparison between the two. While OH WHAT A NIGHT! is a musical tribute, with some banter between the songs, Jersey Boys is a scripted biography about The Four Seasons’ rise to fame.
“We have had Jersey Boys’ fans out to our show and say they love it. Also, because ours is not a biography there is no language in it,” said Solomon, referring to Jersey Boys’ frequent use of the F word. (As the title indicates, the boys were from “Joisey” after all.) “You can bring your child or grandparent to this show.”
The tribute also features 10 releases that are not in Jersey Boys, and that includes Valli’s biggest solo hit, Grease.
“People from Mars know Grease, but there are kids out there who don’t know it was a Valli song. We thought it was time to make that known along with the rest of these songs that are so timeless… Their influence was so great, I hope it becomes even greater now,” said Solomon. “This is for people who like good music and entertainment. Even kids who have never heard this music say they loved it once they see the show.”
OH WHAT A NIGHT! A Musical Tribute To Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons plays at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Thursday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $58.50 at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.