Look, I’m a self-avowed sucker for nostalgia, especially related to the 50s and 60s; I love diners and jean jackets, and the first thing I do whenever I visit home is spin the radio dial to the AM oldies station. Of course, I headed to the “Oh What A Night!” Christmas Show—a tribute to both Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and, special to this tour, Andy Williams and the Williams Brothers’ holiday variety shows—with enthusiasm as high as Frankie’s falsetto on “Sherry.”
Unfortunately, that enthusiasm did not last.
I think part of the problem is that I did not have the right expectations in mind for the type of show it was going to be. I have recently seen two cover bands in Fredericton: one paying homage to The Tragically Hip, the other to Guns N Roses. Both were great, mostly because neither seemed particularly interested in sounding exactly like the band they were impersonating, but just doing their best to perform songs that they happen to love. Furthermore, both had actual bands; they put on a concert.
This show was not that. There was no band. Instead, four singers sang over backing tracks that played over the loudspeakers. This glorified karaoke was combined with very silly dance moves and extremely cheesy stage banter. (I’m not above a “dad joke” or two, but these were rough.)
I want to be fair, though. This performance came straight from Las Vegas (literally, not metaphorically…Maybe both?) where I think these types of shows are far more common. A glance at the group’s tour schedule revealed that they also frequently perform on cruise ships, where I think one has a clearer sense of the kind of entertainment they’ll be offered. So, perhaps someone who had been expecting this style of entertainment would’ve had an enjoyable time. I should note that many of the people around me frequently expressed their amused appreciation with “oohs” and “aahs”—especially after a capella numbers, which, I will admit, did allow the four performers to show off their undeniable singing chops. Many of these audience members were much older, which makes me wonder if perhaps I am simply not the target audience.
But I am a big fan of the music, which makes my experience all the more disappointing. I really wanted to like this show. I wanted to sing and clap along with my favourite Frankie tunes. I knew it would be campy and I knew it would be a bit silly, but I did not realize just how campy and silly it would actually be—nor how artificial it would feel. I left the Fredericton Playhouse last Wednesday realizing that I ought to stick to my oldies on AM, and should probably not book any cruises or flights to Vegas—at least not if I’m looking for entertainment. I walked home saying “Oh, what a night,” indeed…but not the way I had hoped to.