Andy Howells visits Wales Millennium Centre to review Jersey Boys, retelling the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
There are many biographical pop musicals and Jersey Boys, telling the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons has been entertaining theatre audiences for nearly two decades. It originally opened in New York during November 2005 and, by the time it closed on 15 January 2017, was the 12th longest running show in Broadway history.
I grew up loving the music of the 1960s and Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons were in there among the best of them. Although I’ve now seen several tributes shows (in some cases featuring former Jersey Boys alumni) I had yet to see the musical itself. So, its arrival at Wales Millennium Centre on Tuesday evening was a must-see!
Harmonious on stage, strained relationships off, Jersey Boys tells the story of four guys from New Jersey, who took the world by storm via their greatest hits including December 1963 (Oh What a Night), My Eyes Adored You, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, and many more.
The simple framed stage setting takes the audience from a French rap No.1 version of Oh What A Night in the year 2000 right back to the earliest version of The Four Seasons consisting of Tommy and Nick Devito, Nick Massi and Frankie Castelluccio performing the song Silhouettes as a Doo-Wop group in the 1950s back streets of New Jersey.
With the music soundtrack is in place, the story itself is both rough and ready as the group suffer several ups and downs on their rise to stardom. Their run ins with organised crime, cons and money lenders is portrayed with brutal honesty. Genuine talent wins through though as Frankie changes his surname to Valli and Bob Gaudio lends his song writing skills to the group.
The feelgood nature of The Jersey Boys music gets underway with neatly choreographed performances complimented by Griff Johnson’s musical direction onSherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man (all co-incidentally 60 years on from their chart debut) and are delivered in the capable hands of Michael Pickering (Frankie Valli) Blair Gibson (Bob Gaudio) Dalton Wood (Tommy Devitto) and Christopher Short (Nick Massi). Not only do these credible actors replicate the hits, but they also individually tell The Four Seasons back story from each character’s viewpoint.
The audience also get to experience the excitement of The Four Seasons live first hand via a TV camera that projects our stage performers on to a big screen backdrop (after a video introduction from the legendary Ed Sullivan and interspersed with genuine screaming 1960s fans). I found this particularly enjoyable and putting us in the moment of a 1960s TV broadcast.
Further praise must go to the ensemble cast and musicians who maintain a tight and professional performance throughout the evening including Damien Winchester as Barry, George Salmon as Joe Pesci, Michael Levi as Bob Crewe, Emma Crossley as Mary Delgado and Victoria McCabe as Francine.
A well-deserved standing ovation left many of the audience proclaiming “Oh, what a night.” Jersey Boys ensures the energy, spirit and music of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons is stronger than ever through an essential must-see musical experience! It continues at Wales Millennium Centre until April 22!