The catalogue of music produced by the Four Seasons and aired in The Jersey Boys musical easily lends itself to cliches that can describe this top-of-the-range musical.
Oh, What a Night immediately springs to mind but I will be much simpler with my review. There will be many excellent pieces of musical theatre at the Regent in 2022 but if you only intend to see one then this story of one of the iconic bands in pop and its distinctive style of music just has to be the one to choose.
Widely described as a jukebox musical this production goes way beyond its stellar score and tells the warts and all tale of a band’s troubled origins, its rise to stardom and the inevitable breakup of a band that provided the musical backdrop to a generation and beyond
With a talented orchestra directed by Geoff Johnson, dance routines of synchronised perfection choreographed by Sergio Trujillo and very effective scenic and lighting design overseen by Klara Zieglerova and Howell Binkley respectively, this is a delight for both the eyes and ears not to mention the soul.
The audience member has to be alert to keep up with the early mayhem as Tommy DeVito (Dalton Wood) tries to establish a band in between regular spells in prison but the patience is soon rewarded by a gripping storyline. DeVito is helped by future Oscar winner Joe Pesci (George Salmon) who pesters the band leader to include Frankie Valli (Michael Pickering) as lead singer.
The band is going rapidly nowhere though until songwriter Bob Gaudio (Blair Gibson) completes the original line-up. After a number of false starts, Gaudio writes Sherry in a matter of minutes, Bob Crewe (Michael Levi) produces the single and stardom is attained.
Success in the charts has its own pitfalls though. DeVito’s financial carelessness and gambling habit that has to be sorted by mobster Gyp DeCarlo (Jordan James) coupled with a hectic touring schedule have tragic consequences for the band. The erstwhile leader is eased out after Gaudi and Valli shake hands on a partnership and the fourth member of the band Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths) decides to quit. Gaudi himself then withdraws from performing leaving Valli to continue to produce hits until the original members are re-united for their introduction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The story is uniquely told in four sections that are unsurprisingly named after the four seasons of the year and give each original band member the opportunity to give their own take on the story. Just as importantly each member is able at the end of the show to summarise his own life and contribution to the band’s success and as each character left the stage the audience was able to show its well-earned appreciation.
The four main characters have all been cast well and are ably backed by a cast that plays a multitude of characters. Congratulations to all. Wood is a perfect punchy punk; Johnson has a top-class voice and gives an excellent portrayal of a gifted but naïve entrant into the world of pop and Griffiths makes the role of laid-back but OCD Massi his own.
All of the above are excellent in their roles and bring all of the verve and veracity of the Four Seasons to life. But the key performance has to come from the man playing Valli. Will he genuinely get the personality of an icon of popular music right?
The answer is a resounding yes. He very effectively shows a man experiencing both the highs and lows of life and, as Pesci says, he has the voice of an angel. His rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You was heart-stoppingly beautiful and temporarily produced a pause in the action as Pickering rightfully took a moment to breathe in the acclaim of an ecstatic audience.
The Jersey Boys has justly won awards since its inception in 2004 and its audiences are a mixture of those new to the Jersey Boys experience and those returning for more. This has proved to be the musical that will make even the most vociferous opponent of musical theatre change his mind. Take my advice and get along to The Regent before it disappears. You won’t regret it.
The production has a running time of approximately 2 hours 30 minutes including interval and will be at The Regent Theatre until February 19th. For ticket information contact atgtickets.com/stoke or telephone 08448717615