Book: Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Music: Bob Gaudio
Lyrics: Bob Crewe
Director: Des McAnuff
Much like the careers of the Jersey Boy’s themselves, the current UK tour currently playing at the Liverpool Empire also takes a little while to pick up steam, but when it does, it really goes for it! It’s always a difficult space – the largest two-tier venue in the UK causes many productions issues especially in the ability to get a good sound mix. Needless to say, that issue more than raises its head with Jersey Boys. Music drowning out vocals, vocals drowning out music – it isn’t until the second act that these issues seem to disappear which is a shame considering the amount of music that is packed into the first act of this biopic jukebox musical.
Despite its shortcomings in the sound department, the cast are uniformly strong, Director Des McAnuff’s staging means there are no over long set changes as cast bring on and take off tables and chairs with speed and efficiency. Location changes are done with subtle lighting differences or a small prop/set piece. This allows the rollercoaster tale of Frankie Valli (Luke Suri) and band members Bob Gaudio (Blair Gibson), Tommy Devito (Dalton Wood) and Nick Massi (Norton James) to really soar – its amazing how much backstory can be squeezed into a 2.5hour production but book writers Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice do a magnificent job. What makes this musical stand out amongst many is that it doesn’t hold back on telling the darker side of the story, the mob influences, the gambling, the jail sentences – this is a band that has a history, and they aren’t afraid to show or share it.
Wood gives a gripping performance as the self-proclaimed leader of the group Tommy Devito, he has a gravitas that equally matches his vocal performances, likewise, Norton James’ rendition of Nick Massi brings plenty of laughs thanks to his cool demeanor. Luke Suri as Frankie Valli has great energy especially during some of Frankie’s more lively numbers – his falsetto is strong, one just hopes as he gets more performances under his belt, he finds a little more depth between the light and darker moments of Valli. For this reviewer it is the performance of Blair Gibson as songwriter extraordinaire Bob Gaudio that really steals the limelight – he finds a perfect balance throughout the production and his vocals are pitch-perfect!
Filled to the brim with classic songs such as ‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girl’s Don’t Cry’ and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ you can’t help but be whisked away on a mega sense of nostalgia, of a musical era where songs seemed to tell more of a story and mean more than initially appears. Jersey Boys is an excellent production that will have you beggin’ for more. While it certainly has struggles fitting perfectly into the Empire Theatre, it certainly stands strong in other areas ensuring an excellent evening of music and drama.
Runs until Sat 5 February 2022 and continues its UK tour