Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music: Bob Gaudio
Lyrics: Bob Crewe
Director: Des McAnuff
Reviewer: David Robinson
The gritty story of the unlikely quartet from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey is not your usual shiny and stain-free jukebox musical offering. It’s a real-life tale of how these four problematic pals created some of the most recognisable and toe-tapping sounds in popular music. Their story, like the seasons they tell it through, is at times bright and breezy akin to their tunes but at other times the accounts turn dark, cold and considerably frosty, particularly in their attitudes towards one another.
Lead vocalist Frankie Valli for the press night is tackled with some much-needed vocal dexterity by alternate Valli Dayle Hodge. He moves and sings with a smooth charm and amidst his hard environment fights doggedly to retain a likeable innocence. There is little of that innocence to be found in Tommy Devito, credited with forming the band and discovering Valli. Devito mixes with questionable company and is in regular need of a wad of money to ease him out of trouble. Simon Bailey discovers the required hardness with his portrayal of Devito but also adds a bit of a twinkle into the mix that develops in the end to a rather tragic and, at times, lonely figure. The quartet is completed by Declan Egan as lyricist Bob Gaudio and Lewis Griffiths as bass vocalist Nick Massi. Both are nicely observed characters, with Massi, in particular, having a number of pleasing comedic moments that he times superbly.
The popular numbers are executed well and the harmonies are brilliantly achieved as are the trademark moves behind the mics. What doesn’t come from behind the mics quite so much is any sort of warm rapport with the audience, the temperature and atmosphere is very much spring; we certainly never reach summer. Sentiment and warmth are a bit lacking, the suits are smart and the set pieces keenly polished but with emotions somewhat lustreless. Hodge reaches out to the audience at times in the second half and his interpretation of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is a beautiful highlight. We also see glimpses of Valli’s family life, his struggles and heartaches. A few more peeks into the family set-up would be a welcome addition. The medley of good time hits is still a strong card to play for a packed and enthusiastic audience, with pleasing choreography from Sergio Trujillo and slick direction from Des McAnuff, with the ultra-quick ferrying on of various large pieces of set seamlessly done and a credit to the crew and supporting cast.
Jersey Boys remains a very satisfying night out, with our lead four boys commendably giving it 100% from beginning to end, just needs a bit more seasoning.
Runs Until 19 May 2018 and on tour | Image: Brinkhoff & Mogenburg