It’s not every show where you are treated to a performance that warrants not one but three separate standing ovations, but Jersey Boys delivers just that.
Telling the story of the Four Seasons, each band member gets a season to tell his tale. But as they say in the show “take four different men and you’ll get four different versions”. It turns out there was a lot more to the Jersey boys than close vocal harmonies and hit records, their colourful story – of ducking and diving, wise guys and hustles, failed relationships, rows, retribution and eventual redemption – makes this a jukebox musical with real story to tell.
We start with Tommy Devito’s Spring. Unfortunately Stephen Webb was indisposed so Henry Davis stepped into the dance shoes admirably. A petty criminal, with a criminal record a mile long, but with a musical talent and a dream to escape. He put together a band with his brother Nick and Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths) and gave Francis Castelluccio the big break that turned him into Frankie Valli (Matt Corner). With a few stints in prison, and brother Nick not coming out of jail for a long time, the band begins.
With the joining of Bob Gaudio (Sam Ferriday) and the name The Four Seasons taken from the local bowling alley, the band hits big and Bob gives us his Summer.
A chance meeting with Bob Crew (Joel Elferink) gives them the recording contract they desire and with Gaudio’s writing talent, a slew of hits appear. From Sherrie, to our first ovation of the night Walk Like A Man. But as the hits keep coming DeVito’s spending gets worse and by the end of the first half the boys are in a million dollars worth of debt to the tax and the Mob.
Nick Massi’s Fall comes next, followed by Valli’s winter including the tragic death of his daughter. But the hits continue and the second ovation is for Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, the song none of the record producers wanted to touch but was a huge commercial success.
With all the debts cleared, it ends with the band’s entrance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first time the original four have seen and spoken to each other in 25 years. It’s a bittersweet story. Valli’s immediately recognisable distinctive voice gives rise to some amazing vocals during the show.
It would be all too easy to put this show on the road as another jukebox musical, a limp through the history of a household name, but the narrative is as strong as the score and really packs a punch in the emotional moments. Klara Zieglerova’s restrained design, a framework of scaffolding encloses the action. At the back of the stage, huge Roy Lichtenstein-style cartoons show comic-strip girls with pony tails, huge tears and speech bubbles, while against the oranges and reds of what seems to be a perpetual sunset, is an industrial silhouette of chimneys and pylons.
The band are fabulous, led by Gareth Weedon with Ed Bussey, Carrie Grant, Bryan Smith, Frank Dawkins, Mat Elliott, Stuart Roberts, Jon Shenoy, Nathan Hawken and Rob Greenwood. Plus every show should have a motorised drum set that travels the stage
Jersey Boys is jam packed with more than 30 hits and as you sit back and listen, it’s easy to forget just how many top songs this quartet produced over the years.
Throughout the whole show there were people singing along to every word and the audience couldn’t help but tap their feet to the rhythm of the music as it’s so uplifting and infectious. This is a feel good show guaranteed to lift the spirits and well worth a visit or return visit to enjoy its true gloriousness.
Reviewed by Lindsay Sykes
Photo: Helen Maybanks
Jersey Boys is on tour around the UK. Click here for dates and tickets