“Oh, What a Night” you’ll have at Jersey Boys, one of the world’s best loved jukebox musicals. The Four Seasons are a key part of rock and roll history; the fantastic songs and the electrifying voice of Frankie Valli are ingrained into the fabric of American culture. Jersey Boys introduces you to the story of the Four Seasons through the witty perspectives of the members themselves. Sit back and relax as they take you from the Italian neighbourhoods of New Jersey to the bright lights of international fame, to soundtrack of one of the best catalogues in the industry.
From jail-time in their hometown of New Jersey to international success and back down again when they all went their separate ways, the story starts with Tommy DeVito, the self-proclaimed leader of the group, who narrates how him and Nick Massi plucked up young Frankie and inducted him into their flimsy group. Once they've all managed to find a time when they are all out of prison, they try to go on the road and, in desperation, enlist song-writer Bob Gaudio to join the group, who promptly picks up the narrative. Through the eyes of each member, we see the Four Seasons hit the charts with songs like "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry", before some of them hit rock bottom.
Nick Massi, the bassist in the group, is played by Matt Hunt and was arguably one of the most likeable characters for his dry wit and remarkably undramatic outlook compared with the other members. When the future was looking bleak for the group, his section of the narrative kept the energy up and Hunt delivered the one-liners brilliantly (“Maybe this is a good time for me to start my own group”). Simon Bailey played Tommy DeVito, the loveable rogue with a habit of getting into deep debt. He was leaking with sheer Jersey charm and he felt very familiar to the audience, probably because everyone knows someone as cocky and self-assured as him.
On the night that I went, neither Bob Gaudio nor Frankie Valli were played by the usual cast members. Gaudio, the man behind all the hit records, was played by Chris Stoddart. He was the outsider to the group, having not grown up with the others and being more business-minded towards their futures. Stoddart plays the confident and slightly camp Gaudio incredibly well, it’s hard to believe he isn’t the usual cast member.
It takes something really special to play the legendary Frankie Valli and Dayle Hodge completely pulled it off. He takes over from Matt Corner at certain performances but hits all the falsetto notes like he’s been doing it his whole life. The audience was completely mesmerised by his performances of the bittersweet “My Eyes Adored You” and the iconic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, so much that the applause for the latter went on and on and on. He leads the audience through all the hits, reminding us of why the Four Seasons were so unique and influential in rock and roll history.
The rest of the ensemble formed the supporting characters such as Frankie’s wife and daughter, Mary and Francine, and the hilarious record producer, Bob Crewe. There were so many different female characters at different points, in different hair colours and voices, that I couldn’t believe there were only three actresses. The whole look of the show is definitively 60’s, from the way that the television appearances were staged to the way that they all clicked their fingers in time with the beat.
Jersey Boys has been around since 2005 and it’s one of those shows that has made itself a brand; having seen the show on tour last year, I expect it won’t differ in staging no matter where you see it, in New Orleans or Tokyo. This isn’t uncommon in the West End and seems to work pretty well for shows like Wicked and The Lion King so this show is great if you want to see a guaranteed hit but may seem formulaic to others.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jersey Boys and it seemed that the rest of the audience agreed with me, there was laughter throughout and many even gave it a standing ovation at the end. If you’re the Four Season’s biggest fan or have never even heard one of their songs, you might just fall in love with this story of four boys rising from obscurity to global fame. Jersey Boys is a fantastic night out and you’ll come out tapping your feet to the unforgettable melodies of the Four Seasons.
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