Starting Tuesday, “Oh, What A Night” will be the warmest words at the Palace Theatre, when “Hot Jersey Nights” opens its first run in Myrtle Beach, through June 1.
Jamie Sampson, who sings the bass part in this musical tribute to Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons, said he remembered listening to the New Jersey-based quartet’s music on records his parents would play at home in London.
“The music is so iconic and amazing,” he said of a group that struck around the same time the Beatles and Beach Boys rocked the world with their own sounds.
“It sells itself on its own, and to perform it is absolutely amazing. A lot of people in England know who the 4 Seasons are. They’re just too big not to know.”
Sampson he first sang in this show in July in Branson, Mo., then in Reno, Nev., from August through November.
He said from the moment “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” – a song released in December 1975 by the re-formed foursome – opened the curtain, “and that beat kicks in,” people got on their feet.
“It was a packed house every night,” Sampson said.
With the show opening in the Palace’s intimate King’s Theatre, Sampson said this will differ from Reno, where “we had dancers and all the bells and whistles.”
“This time, it’s just us four guys, really just giving the music of the 4 Seasons the spotlight,” he said.
Sabrina Israel, who handles marketing for the Palace, said when “Hot Jersey Nights” returns for a fall engagement, when November hits, the show will move to the main stage for an enlarged “Christmas Spectacular” production for two months.
Sampson said going back in time, the soundtrack of many hits from the 4 Seasons’ glory days in the early to mid-1960s “seems to be talking to people reliving their youth,” and they bring their children and grandchildren, who also celebrate in the upbeat spirit of the music.
‘Whole kind of culture’
He called the body of work “a whole kind of culture” and that the “megamix section” of the show gets “everybody on their feet – and I mean everybody.”
With more than two dozen songs covered in two acts, including two Valli solo numbers – “My Eyes Adored You” and the Barry Gibb-penned “Grease” movie hit – Sampson said “Silence Is Golden” demands the most precision to make it perfect. That ballad, originally on the B side of a 45-rpm vinyl single, marks the first a-cappella number in “Hot Jersey Nights.”
“Everything comes together,” Sampson said, appreciating how “Silence” shows how the 4 Season’ harmonies really clicked, from their roots of doo-wopping on street corners.
The show contains spoken interludes – “little bite-size snippets, why Valli did certain things”– reminding audiences how the 4 Seasons crafted their vocal unison, said Sampson, who enjoys slowing down “Earth Angel,” making it “kind of jazzy.”
“It’s things like that to make the show different, compared with ‘Jersey Boys,’ ” he said, noting the cast of four sings the songs, but does not play Valli and the lineup of the rest of the group that would change through the years.
Sampson said all four men in the core “look very different,” but that “one of the guys hits all the high notes just like Frankie.”
The trio of “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like A Man” in that order, “tightly choreographed,” Sampson said: “That’s what people get very excited about, when the beat starts, and we come in with the jackets.”
Sampson said he “has done a lot of shows,” from “West End big productions” to having “toured the world” with “Mamma Mia!” Yet, he remembered concluding after the first night in Reno, “This is the best thing I’ve ever done.”