Music: Bob Gaudio
Lyrics: Bob Crewe
Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Director: Des McAnuff
Reviewer: Helen Jones
Jersey Boys tells the story of how the group The Four Seasons came to be, their success and eventual break-up of the founding members with Frankie Valli going on to front a band of new members. Starting in New Jersey where Tommy Devito, his brother Nick and friend Nick Massi are in a band together and one night get the young Frankie Castelluccio to sing with them. But soon their illegal activities catch up with them and it’s not until Tommy is free and they are searching for a fourth member to replace Nick DeVito who is still inside that they are introduced to Bob Gaudio who’s songwriting skills are what takes them from minor struggling band to top of the American charts.
As the musical progresses, we see the effect the constant touring is having on Frankie’s marriage and family, Tommy getting deeper involved in gambling and Bob and Nick becoming disillusioned by the touring lifestyle. The story is told by the four founding members, all having their turns at breaking the fourth wall and narrating events. The plot is based heavily on the real-life events surrounding the four men and is well crafted by writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.
Jersey Boys requires four very strong actors in the lead roles. Unfortunately, this production doesn’t really hit the mark. Michael Watson is okay as Frankie Valli, but no more. He isn’t convincing in the more dramatic moments and while his Valli falsetto is amazing, the lower ranges have a nasal twang which detracted from the performance. Peter Nash stepped in as Tommy DeVito replacing Simon Bailey, and while a decent performance, it lacks conviction in places. Thankfully Declan Egan’s Bob Gaudio was excellent and Lewis Griffiths shone as Nick Massi both in his acting and the gorgeous bass/baritone voice he has.
The ensemble cast are also notable in how average they were. No one performance had any real impact and some were downright bad. This reviewer desperately wanted the ensemble to shine but there was barely a glimmer, unfortunately. On the positive side, the live band under Musical Director Francis Goodhand were outstanding and drummer Samuel Firsht deserves a special mention for the amount of time he spends on stage as the drummer for the band.
Klara Zeiglerova’s set is stark with metal staircases and grill screens but is highly effective and used to great effect throughout while Jess Goldstein’s costumes are evocative of the era. Jersey Boys is a good musical, but in the guise of this production, it’s not a great one. However, if you like the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons it’s worth a watch.
Runs until 16 February 2019 | Image: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg