Jersey Boys – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Reviewer: Dan English

Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice

Director: Des McAnuff

It is a trip back to the swinging sixties for audiences at the Orchard Theatre as the Jersey Boys reaches the Kent venue as part of its UK tour in this harmonious jukebox musical.

The production chronicles the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, featuring a superb selection of Valli and his bandmates’ iconic back catalogue. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book takes us behind the scenes and exposes the reality of what it was like inside one of the decade’s most successful musical acts. Rising up from the crimeworlds of New Jersey, this a production which captures the success of the band superbly, and pays a warm homage to one of the sixties’ biggest successes.

Taking on the role of Frankie Valli, Michael Pickering, performing in his hometown, is excellent as the shy teenager who finds a voice in the clubs of New Jersey. Valli’s iconic sound is tough to emulate, but Pickering does this wonderfully, capturing the talent of the frontman well. Pickering’s development of Valli is strong, and his evolution into the lead singer, with his confidence and determination, is done with ease. It would have been nice to have seen how his relationship with Mary Delgado (Emma Crossley) blossomed as this is skimmed over a little too quickly.

Blair Gibson is Bob Gaudio, the one-hit-wonder who is the last to join the band and who provides the pen for most of the band’s hits. Gibson’s Gaudio is slick, presenting the music prodigy as a charming individual who quickly finds his feet in the world of rock and roll. Gibson combines well with Pickering presenting the strong relationship between the two.

Lewis Griffiths, as the straight-faced bass supremo Nick Massi, has a particular poise which is perfect for this role. Griffiths’ dry delivery offers moments of humour and is a good antidote to the bouncy feel of the rest of the piece.

In addition, Dalton Wood is Tommy DeVito. DeVito is the band’s founder and, a shady character, DeVito struggles to find his place in the band once the limelight moves away from him. Wood is excellent as the slimy performer, switching between commanding and conniving with aplomb.

Supporting the four leads is a tireless ensemble cast which keeps the production moving with ease. The ensemble is relatively small yet delivers a plethora of roles ranging from other sixties bands, recording maestros and dangerous gangsters. This production quickly immerses you into Valli’s world.

Catapulting us into the world of the swinging sixties is the set design, designed by Klara Zieglerova. The set is strangely bare, but the malleable nature of the set does enable us to quickly shift through the bandmates’ lives. Although perhaps an over reliance on projection, the incorporation of ‘live’ camera footage is a nice touch and throws us into the audiences of primetime sixties American TV, complete with the giggling gaggle of groupies.

Sergio Trujillo’s choreography is a strong representative of the time and of the bands. The four leads are strong in encompassing all aspects of the bandmates, with Trujillo’s choreography aiding in creating a toe-tapping atmosphere.

Jersey Boys is a fun production which does not fail to pay tribute to the careers of one of New Jersey’s best musical exports. For fans of the band, or for new discoverers, this is a feel-good night out amid the post-Christmas blues.

Runs until  22 January 2022, then continues to tour.

The Reviews Hub Score

A nostalgic night out!

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