Jersey Boys – Royal and Derngate, Northampton

Reviewer: James Garrington

Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice

Music: Bob Gaudio

Lyrics: Bob Crewe

Director: Des McAnuff

You can look forward to a good night out at the Royal and Derngate as the smash hit musical Jersey Boys hits town. The show is based on the story of the Four Seasons, spanning the decades from their formation up to the present day – and no story of a massive pop group would be complete without a liberal dose of their music to complement it. So music there is and it’s there aplenty, with over thirty of the group’s songs to enjoy, both the popular and the less popular.

It’s a story of young lads from the wrong side of town, who seemed to be destined to a life of scams, theft and time behind bars. Attempts to escape through music were failing dismally, with group members coming and going – often into prison – until some chance meetings brought together the quartet that provided them with their first hit records and formed the foundation of the group for many years. The rest of the story is history – though that’s not to say that it’s entirely predictable as everyone but the most dedicated fans of the background and inner thoughts of the band members will find something new here.

One of the crucial things to get right for this sort of jukebox musical is the sound of the group, and Jersey Boys provides a particular challenge in that regard with the instantly recognisable voice of Frankie Valli prominent in most of the songs. Have no fear though, because Ryan Heenan, performing the role on Press Night, certainly delivers in that respect. Heenan manages to capture Valli’s iconic tones brilliantly and doesn’t falter as he leads the company through hit after hit. Although inevitably Valli and his story form much of the plot, this is far from a one-man show. The rest of the famous quartet each play their part too – both in terms of delivering vocally and giving us their part of the story with Dalton Wood (Tommy DeVito), Christopher Short (Nick Massi) and Blair Gibson (Bob Gaudio) all giving us their perspective on proceedings. Not only do they sound good vocally, their depictions of the different characters comes across well too. It’s just a shame little time seems to have been spent teaching them at least the rudiments of how their instruments work, so they can make a more convincing attempt at looking like they’re actually playing them.

The storyline is delivered via a combination of scenes played out on stage and the cast breaking the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience – a device that allows us to understand each person’s perspective and serves to move the story forward, though the monologues can feel a little overused at times and slow down the flow. It’s a minor niggle in an otherwise extremely slick show, with scene changes delivered so adroitly that you sometimes don’t notice them happening. Full credit here to designer Klara Zieglerova who has given us a combination of semi-industrial structure and many individual pieces that are either trucked on or moved by the cast. Jess Goldstein has captured the feel of the costumes perfectly, and Sergio Trujillo’s choreography puts us right back into the period with the classic moves we all expect from groups of this era.

As much as anything it’s a celebration and a reminder of the wonderful music that Bob Gaudio has given us, the soundtrack for a generation. Years on from when many of these songs first appeared, they remain as popular as they ever were. Oh, what a great night out.

Runs until: 1 April 2023 and on tour

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Oh! What a Night!

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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