Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music: Bob Gaudio
Lyrics: Bob Crewe
Director: Des McAnuff
Reviewer: Clare White
Four young men, four stories and one incredible musical legacy. Award-winning musical Jersey Boys tells the story of 1960s supergroup The Four Seasons, from their humble beginnings on the tough streets of New Jersey to the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The unmistakable sound and style of The Four Seasons is flawlessly recreated, utilising the impressive back catalogue, which includes Walk Like a Man, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Sherry and Beggin’– it is a gift of a score that is heart-swelling, spine-tingling and smile-inducing all at once. Witnessing what went on behind the music is just as compelling. The group’s meteoric rise to stardom, their strained relationships, disastrous debt and spells in prison give a gritty and truthful depth to this musical, which also manages to be witty and uplifting at the same time.
The chemistry between the four leads is spot-on, depicting the contrast between the group’s often tense relationship off-stage and the musical magic they created together on-stage. Split into four ‘seasons’, each member takes up the story from his own point of view. We meet Tommy DeVito first, a charming rogue and the group’s founder member, played by the energetic Simon Bailey. The money laundering/jewellery thief wide boy decides to put together a band, recruiting bassist Nick Massi, played brilliantly by deep-voiced, straight-faced Lewis Griffiths and a naïve, 16-year old Frankie Valli, portrayed on this occasion by understudy James Alexander Gibbs. Gibbs does a fine job as Valli, impressively imitating the lead singer’s unique falsetto. He brings a charismatic, youthful energy to the role, but at times the delivery of his lines comes across as a little weak.
It’s not until the trio is introduced to songwriter Bob Gaudio by little Joey Pesci (as in future-Academy-Award-winner Joe Pesci) that the puzzle becomes complete. Gaudio was the talented and business-savvy composer who defined The Four Seasons’ sound, played here by Declan Egan who shines in the role. He’s engaging, earnest and his solo of December 1963 (Oh What a Night) is good fun.
The production is fast-paced, slick and choreographed to perfection. The synchronised moves and harmonies of the four leading men are fabulous. They are well accompanied by a talented supporting cast that takes on multiple rôles and a six-piece orchestra that often features on stage as part of the band. An industrial-inspired two-level stage transforms seamlessly from an atmospheric Jersey backstreet lit only by a street lamp, to a recording studio and then the bright lights of a concert hall.
It’s no surprise that audiences around the world continue to flock to see this uplifting musical treat. Jersey Boys offers the complete package – a compelling story, well told and peppered with light and shade, nostalgically fused with outstanding music and delivered by four exceptionally good leading men.
Runs Until 8 September and on tour | Image: Brinkhoff & Mögenburg