Reviewer: Mark Clegg
Since Jersey Boys appeared on Broadway and in the West End, the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons is as popular as it was in their heyday in the 1960s. Of course, such success spawns tribute acts and there are three or four such acts touring the UK at the moment. Bye Bye Baby, which arrived in Whitley Bay this week may not be the flashiest, but it certainly ranks as one of the most purely entertaining.
The primary strength of a Four Seasons tribute act is the material. It is mind-boggling how many hit songs they had over their career (including Valli’s solo recordings) and how many of these remain in the public consciousness half a century later. However, these songs are not easy to sing and a talented quartet are required. Fortunately, Bye Bye Baby has just that. Jamie Ledwith leads the group as Valli. Tim Kay plays Tommy DeVito and Dan Goddard and Richard Campbell are Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio respectively.
A loose approach as to who actually sang what (Grease here is given to Massi) allows each performer to shine with solo work and they all possess fine voices. However, it’s when they come together in four-part harmony that the vocals really soar, and the synchronised choreography adds a wonderful shine to the overall performances.
The four-piece band is superb, musically faultless, and brilliantly balanced with the singers. The scenery comprises of a single large screen on which photos of the performers’ real-life counterparts and record covers from their songs are projected. This is a simple and effective device that allows some context into proceedings, as well as giving and an extra touch of nostalgia. The lighting too is relatively simple but extremely effective.
Audience participation is encouraged and, by the time the finale medley of all the really big hits arrives, most of the audience are on their feet and singing and dancing along.
At a tight two hours (including interval) the pace never falters. The songs are presented chronologically, with hit song following hit song. The whole thing is held together with minimal but entertaining and informative narration that tells the story of the band, not shying away from the conflict and tragedy that happened along the way.
This is a very straightforward and unfussy tribute that rightly allows the music to take centre stage and which is all the better for it. For undiluted, Four Seasons flavoured entertainment you really can’t beat Bye Bye Baby.
Touring nationwide | Image: Contributed