Review: HOW WE GOT TO JERSEY, A Tale of Two Frankies

by Lynn on December 31, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

From l-r: Adrian Marchuk, Jeff Madden

Live and in person at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, Dec. 9, 2023. Just one performance.

Created and performed by Jeff Madden and Adrian Marchuk.

Musical direction by Mark Camilleri.

Catching up on this overdue review. They only did one concert and it was terrific.

How We Got to Jersey: A Tale of Two Frankies tells all about Jersey Boys, a ‘biography in music’ of the hugely successful pop group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, in this lively, song-filled, heart-pounding, toe-tapping concert.

Jeff Madden and Adrian Marchuk sing all the Frankie Valli classic songs that filled Jersey Boys such as: “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” Who Loves You,” “My Eyes Adore You,” “Working My Way Back to You,” among others. They both sing the songs in that distinctive high, clear Frankie Valli voice complete with the dance moves so connected to the songs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Both Jeff Madden and Adrian Marchuk riff off one another with good natured joshing during the concert, but at its core they have enormous respect for each other’s talents and abilities. When they aren’t singing duets, each gets a turn at the limelight, while the other listens intently and with stillness. No upstaging with these performers.

But what makes this concert particularly special and notable is Jeff Madden and Adrian Marchuk’s own story of how they got to be in a production of Jersey Boys which began its storied history as a blockbuster Broadway musical.   

In between their beautiful singing of the various songs of Jersey Boys, each man spoke about their careers, hopes, dreams and journey’s ‘to Jersey.’

How is it possible that two small-town Ontario boys would grow up to have respectable performing careers that would catapult them into the ‘big time’ when they were both cast in Jersey Boys as Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons?

Jeff Madden was a long-time member of the Shaw Festival over the years. One could also find him often appearing in the latest hit musical in Toronto or across the country. Adrian Marchuk also was a member of the Shaw Festival and had a more varied career across the country as well playing in musicals, straight plays and creating his own concerts. And while their paths crossed as their careers expanded, it was Jersey Boys that connected them.

Both auditioned to play Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, ideally hoping it would be for the Broadway production. They were actually auditioning for the Toronto production. Both went through a grueling process, being flown to New York to audition for original members of the Four Seasons. The part of Frankie Valli was so strenuous to sing eight performances a week, that the part was divided. One singer would sing six performances a week and the other ‘Frankie” would sing two performances a week.  As it happened Jeff Madden was cast as ‘six-show-Frankie’ and Adrian Marchuk was cast as ‘two-show-Frankie.’

Each had to work as hard as the other regardless of the number of performances. Adrian Marchuk always had Jeff Madden’s back. Often during the concert Marchuk would reveal he was called in to replace Madden if he might fall ill etc. Madden was truly appreciative. Often Marchuk revealed something about his own efforts and Madden would say, with consideration, “I didn’t know that (about you).”

Both Madden and Marchuk felt that playing Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys was the role of a life-time. And while they each got that role and it led to better opportunities–Marchuk played a short run of the show in Las Vegas and Madden played a much longer run in Australia–it took its toll. It meant that both men were separated from their families for long periods of time. Madden was away for a year at one point and arranged to fly back to see his family every few months. Both men experienced a roller coaster of emotions. Separately, they both had a revelation about the work, their love of theatre, performing and putting things in perspective.

How We Got To Jersey, a story of two Frankies is a wonderful concert of beloved music from Jersey Boys. It is also one of the deepest felt, most emotional explorations of the performer’s life you will ever see. It will leave you with a continued appreciation of the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but it will also be a revelatory experience in the dedication and hard work that goes into a career in musical theatre.

Jeff Madden and Adrian Marchuk are such gifted creators, they obviously put their heart and soul into this concert. But at two hours and thirty minutes, it’s a bit too long. The dialogue between songs could do with some tightening of the story and would be just as emotional.

I note that when Marchuk was speaking about his section, he subtly indicated to music director Mark Camilleri who was playing the piano, to play the piano softer during those moments. Truth to tell, I don’t think any of the talented musicians should be playing any kind of music when each man is telling his story. The music is unnecessary. Hearing the story clearly is most important. Other than that, How We Got to Jersey, a story of two Frankies is a concert that should be played across the country multiple times and not just once here and there. It’s terrific.  

Next playing March 30, Port Stanley Festival Theatre.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephen Woodjetts December 31, 2023 at 10:45 pm

Both of these men are beautiful, inside and out. Talented, generous beyond belief. A joy to work with. Shining examples of team players. I’m honoured to know them, and privileged to having worked with them.

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2 Patricia Silver January 1, 2024 at 11:01 am

Two extremely talented performers – so proud of our Canadian artists!

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