Touring – reviewed at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
This musical was adored by a late, great friend of mine so watching Jersey Boys for the first time, at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, was an emotional performance even before curtain up. Everything from the impressive back catalogue of The Four Seasons hits to the exceptional vocal ability of the main cast and ensemble to the sheer energy and vibe of the production is top class.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the original line up – the show walks you seamlessly through it step by step. From Tommy DeVito’s (Simon Bailey) brainchild and mentoring of a teenage Frankie Valli (James Alexander Gibbs) to the dodgy lifestyle choices which led to prison sentences for DeVito and Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths) to the introduction of their very own genius, Bob Gaudio (Declan Egan). There’s superb backing from the female ensemble members who play love interests and singers. Mark Heenehan is a subtle yet imposing presence as Gyp DeCario, the go-to man.
As the hits start rolling for the group and they establish themselves as The Four Seasons, the audience is treated to a cornucopia of blasts from the past which remain popular today. From ‘Sherry’ to ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ to ‘Walk Like A Man’. Each musical number sounds as though it is being performed by the band themselves, the cast’s voices are so in tune with the original sound we have come to know.
Gibbs is extraordinary as the main man, Frankie Valli – a ‘character’ whose home life was complicated and tinged with tragedy. Bailey is perfectly cast as Tommy DeVito, oozing ‘cocky’ DeVito style confidence and a stage presence that shines from the outset. Egan also makes his mark as Bob Gaudio (slightly lacking in confidence and not so easy in the limelight yet brimming with love for music and overflowing with talent – a complex man indeed). Griffiths completes the picture as Nick Massi, a guy who’s cool, calm and collected until he has to room share with Tommy! The bass vocals that Griffiths offers are pure velvet, he’s one to watch in the future.
The set gives the audience enough to know when the venue has changed, however it doesn’t detract from the music and the story – which are at the heart of the musical. An over the top backdrop would have been too showy and unnecessary. The choreography by Sergio Trujillo is eye-catching and fits perfectly.
Odds on you’ll be up on your feet dancing to popular hits such as ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’ and you’ll probably feel like I do, one trip to see this show isn’t enough! I’d rather not say ‘bye bye baby’ and be ‘beggin’ for another ticket instead.
Photo Credits: Brinkhoff & Mogenburg