Writers: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Director: Des McAnuff
Music: Bob Gaudio
Reviewer: Clare White
Award winning musical Jersey Boys rock ‘n rolled into Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre for a night of smash hits and high jinks. Set in New Jersey in 1962, Jersey Boys tells the rags to riches story of four young boys from the wrong side of the tracks, who, despite spells in prison, dealings with mobsters, debt and fall outs, unite to become Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, one of the most successful pop acts in music history.
Since its Broadway premiere in 2005, the show has been seen by over 20 million people worldwide, is apparently David Beckham’s favourite and is regarded as the musical that makes people who don’t like musicals, like them.
Unlike some jukebox musicals, this isn’t an ill-conceived story weaved around some popular tunes (We Will Rock You, anyone?), this is a gritty, emotive biography about the lives, loves, highs and lows of Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Frankie Valli, perfectly accompanied by their extensive back catalogue of legendary hits.
We meet founder member Tommy DeVito first, a charismatic rogue played by the energetic Stephen Webb. DeVito and bassist Nick Massi (portrayed by the fabulously straight-faced Lewis Griffiths) take a naïve Frankie under their wings, keen capitalise on the teenager’s talent.
The trio (known then as The Three Lovers) struggle to find their sound, until a teenage Joe Pesci (as in Hollywood actor Joe Pesci), introduces them to their fourth and final member – ingenious songwriter Bob Gaudio, played by the brilliant Sam Ferriday. Following Bob’s arrival, the fame, the money and the hits come thick and fast, and the audience is treated to a sparkling rock and pop masterclass, which includes Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Bye Bye Baby, Beggin and Walk Like A Man.
Matt Corner is outstanding as Frankie Valli. It’s not just his Frankie-falsetto which is flawless; he brings poignant emotion and warmth to the role. As a foursome, the harmonies are spot on and the moves are effortlessly synchronised – each ‘Season’ forms part of a perfect puzzle. Praise must also go to the strong supporting cast, many who take on numerous parts, including Damien Buhagiar who is hilarious as little Joe Pesci.
Simple but effective sets allow the spotlight to firmly shine on the stars of the show, and clever staging and use of props add to the spectacle. The costumes and styling is excellent, and six wig and wardrobe staff are on hand to make sure that 80 hair pieces and hundreds of costumes look their best.
Right from curtain up, the show sets a rapid pace. At times, the Jersey accents are tricky to follow and it’s a little hard to keep up, but then the story spans over 50 years, so there is a lot to fit in. Each member narrates their own ‘season’, which allows the audience discover more about the men behind the matching suits. The harsh reality of success takes its toll on each of them in different ways. As DeVito puts it, “If you ask four guys what happened, you’ll get four different versions.” It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as there are some brilliant comedic moments and witty one liners.
The story of the Four Seasons is fascinating and their music is uplifting and delightfully nostalgic. As a stage production, it’s sensational. A delighted Wolverhampton audience responded with a well-deserved standing ovation.
Runs until 20 February 2016 | Image: Contributed