Book: Marshall Brickman &Rick Elice
Music: Bob Gaudio
Lyrics: Bob Crewe
Director: Des McAnuff
Reviewer: Stephanie Rowe
2003 saw the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Season brought to life on the stage for the first time, now with productions all over the world and a production still going strong in the West End Jersey Boys embarks on it’s first ever UK Tour. Launching like many before them in Manchester it is fast becoming the Boston/San Francisco of the UK theatre scene and it’s easy to see why. Theatre going is as much part of the life-blood of this city as its music and sporting scenes and the public lap it up in huge quantities.
Book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have crafted something unique in its storytelling device as the show says “You ask four guys how it happened, you get four different versions. And this is where all of them start. A thousand years ago. Eisenhower. Rocky Marciano. And a few guys under a streetlamp singing somebody else’s latest hit.” Here we see four sides to the story – the ups, the downs, the fights and the fallouts from each individual member: Frankie Valli (played on press night by Alternate Frankie Matt Corner), Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths), Bob Gaudio (Sam Ferriday) and Tommy DeVito (Stephen Webb).
The UK tour may have scaled down production elements, but the heart is still firmly in place Klara Zieglerova’s set design of chrome gives the stage a timeless concert feel to proceedings which helps the whistle-stop pace of Des McAnuff’s direction to flow without hindrance and gives the performances of the energetic ensemble and the four leads room to breathe.
Griffiths is a study of solid strength as the deep and often “quiet” Nick Massi – his grounded baritone vocals adding depth to the higher vocal ranges of the rest of the team. Ferriday delights as songwriter Gaudio whose real passion is for the music. Webb as the troublesome DeVito gives a constant cloak of menace over proceedings but you can’t help but be enticed by this multi-layered personality, however it is the performance of Frankie Valli played by the show’s alternate Matt Corner who delivers the performance of the night. Stepping in at last minute to cover for Tim Driesen’s illness Corner embodies Valli with a haunting portrayal, his pin sharp falsetto hitting the notes with an ease that many would struggle to reach.
Filled to the brim with hits including; Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December 1963 (Oh What A Night) and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, the music just explodes and almost becomes its own character – not surprising when the creative team have woven them so brilliantly into the text that they help drive the narrative along instead of just being used as a historical snap-shot Fallen Angel being of particular note.
It’s this passion for music that still drives the long standing partnership between Gaudio and Valli and firmly cements them as one of the best partnerships in music history – Jersey Boys celebrates that in all its glory!
Runs until 4th October 2014 | Photo Helen Maybanks