Hit season

TRACEY COOPER
Last updated 08:13 12/07/2012
George Solomon
George Solomon
MAN FOR FOUR SEASONS: Back to the fore, Frankie Valli.
MAN FOR FOUR SEASONS: Back to the fore, Frankie Valli.

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From being a virtual unknown for the last 20 or so years, Frankie Valli is all of a sudden the man of the moment, again.

The musical about his life, Jersey Boys, has just finished a successful season in Auckland, attracting more than 100,000 people.

A new show, Oh What a Night, a musical tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is on its way, touring 10 venues around New Zealand, including Hamilton, in August and September.

It heads to New Zealand from Las Vegas and is fronted by George Solomon, who helped create the show and says it's being performed by several groups around the world.

"The show has grown so much. There are so many companies of the show now. We have 40 to 50 guys doing the show," Solomon says.

He has performed and written with stars such as Diana Ross, Bill Cosby, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Harry Connick Jr and Liza Minnelli and says Frankie Valli music was what he grew up listening to and was part of the solo shows he performed.

"I was doing a solo show, which I still do and have been doing for years, and co-producer Michael Chapman said: `That goes really well, but let's do something different. You do some Frankie Valli in your show. Let's do a whole Four Seasons show."'

"But I have to tell you, it was a passion I had since I was a little kid," he says.

"When I was a kid, my older brothers and sisters were playing Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons music constantly. It was my sister's favourite.

"I particularly remember there was this little girl who lived in our neighbourhood and her name was Sherry, and I was head over heels in love with her. I would serenade her. I would sit on her porch and sing, `Sherry, can you come out tonight'.

"Really, it's amazing all these years later when I'm on stage I think about that. It helped that we were 5 years old, but the song just brings back such great memories."

It's memories which are driving the resurgence in the music of Valli, the falsetto-voiced singer from New Jersey who had a string of hits from the early 1960s to the late 70s with his band the Four Seasons.

Songs such as the title track from Grease, Sherry, Rag Doll, Walk Like a Man, Who Loves You, Can't Take My Eyes Off You, Big Girls Don't Cry, My Eyes Adored You and December 1963 (Oh, What A Night) contributed to Valli and the Four Seasons' total of nearly 30 Top 40 tracks.

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There are just as many forgotten tracks which people won't remember until they hear them, Solomon says.

"We do 30 big hits in this show and people don't believe there are that many and yet they know every one of them.

"There might be a couple that are a little more obscure, but then people come up and say, `I haven't heard that one for years'."

They also do a selection of songs people thought were by the Four Seasons but weren't, Solomon says.

"We hear that after the show, people say, `You know, I did think that was by the Four Seasons'."

While radio regularly plays Valli songs, "I think there are some great classics that have been overlooked".

The show differs from Jersey Boys, in that the latter tells a biographical story, whereas Oh What a Night is a musical tribute, Solomon says.

"I think Jersey Boys tells the story great, but in our show, we have a little more time for the songs.

"Obviously, in a biography it has to be true to life and we respect that, but there's no language in our show. It's very family friendly. This really is one you can bring your kids to."

The show also differs in that all four cast members take their turn in the limelight, he says.

"We cast three other guys and the guys were so fantastic that we thought we can't just make this a lead singer and three backups, so one of the unique things about Oh What a Night is that all four are featured.

"At some point, everybody sings lead, so there's not just one guy singing lead on all the songs and the other guys singing harmonies. The audience walks away from the experience really getting to know the four individuals on stage."

They often walk away with a bit of a skip in their step too.

"People are on their feet screaming and going crazy every night," he says.

Oh What a Night, a musical tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is at Hamilton's Founders Theatre on Saturday, August 25.

The Times has two double passes to the show to give away. To enter the draw, email features@waikatotimes.co.nz by 5pm on Monday with Frankie in the subject line.

- Waikato Times

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