Director: Des Mcanuff
Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music and Lyrics: Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
For those unaware, The Jersey Boys is not your standard juke box musical. Despite a smorgasbord of hit songs that you will instantly recognise there is far more to this show than a number of hits strung together. This is the real life story of four colourful characters: Frankie Valli (Matt Corner), Bob Gaudio (Sam Ferriday), Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths) and Tommy DeVito (Stephen Webb) who grew up in New Jersey on the edges of the gangster fraternity, but made good by forming a band. This show is currently still running in the West End and it is a reflection on its popularity that it has now embarked on a UK wide tour. The Mayflower is the current stop off and it must be said the tour is by no means a lesser rival to the London production.
Opening with a rather modern rap version of ‘Oh What a Night’ ‘Ces Soirees-La’ the audience may well wonder how this relates to the Four Seasons, however as an example of the longevity of the artistes it serves as a reminder as to how good these guys really are. More recognisable numbers follow, with classics such as ‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Walk Like a Man’, ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’ and ‘Beggin’’, songs the Southampton audience clearly recognise as there was much nodding of heads, swaying in seats and clapping along to the music. The money number ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ that made a number of people gasp in recognition and then incredulity that this was a song by Valli and not numerous other well-known American crooners. Corner gave a solid delivery of this iconic number although there appeared to be a lot of ‘echo’ on the microphone which at times made it difficult to hear some of the words; it didn’t really matter as most of the audience seemed to know them anyway. Corner is about to take over the permanent rôle of Valli for the rest of the tour and no doubt he will settle further into the rôle.
Supported by the other three ‘Seasons’ each of the characters give their opinion on how the group made its journey to success. Sam Ferriday as Gaudio works hard to make him the laconic character that drives the group and Stephen Webb’s untrustworthy DeVito just about manages to be likeable. However, it is Lewis Griffith’s Massi that shines. His deep vocal tones and laid-back attitude with the never ending hope of one day being able to “start my own group’ resonates throughout the show making him the most likeable character and the performance that stands out among the four.
Putting the characters and storyline to one side a massive mention must go to the creative teams; no detail is left unturned. From set designer and the fabulous backdrops of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art paintings, fiercely choreographed dance routines, to the costumes, hair and makeup all of which add to the authenticity of the era. Red jackets, full skirted dresses and slick hair all combine to make this show a cut above other musicals in this genre. This show has heart and it certainly appealed to the Mayflower audience. During the closing numbers which include ‘Rag Doll’, ‘Who Loves You’ and a welcome reprise of ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’ the whole audience were on their feet.
If you can get a ticket to this show then you will get a guaranteed, fabulous evening out.
Photo byHelen-Maybanks ¦ Runs at the Mayflower Southampton until 15th August 2015 then continues a nationwide tour