FOur Seasons head 

Jersey Boys

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

*****

THERE has been a rising trend in musicals woven around popular music. Acts like The Kinks, Abba, Queen, Carole King and Michael Jackson have all provided the soundtracks for top end, often award winning, productions.

Some shoehorn the tracks somewhat clumsily into an unrelated story. Others tell the tale of the people that actually made the music. Jersey Boys falls into the latter category and is one of the better examples. It's helps, of course, if the story behind the music is an engaging one. This most certainly is.

Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi and Tommy De Vito were friends from New Jersey with a shared passion to make music.

Life was tough. Not a manufactured toughness designed by the record company to make them appear to have more street cred – but genuine hardship, which made their rise to fame all the more impressive, given the obstacles they had to overcome.

This is a rags to riches tale that doesn't skip over the rags. The journey of four New Jersey friend’s, intent on making it big in the music business was far from an easy one. Spells in jail, countless fall outs, unscrupulous producers, family tragedy and chronic debts would have stopped lesser hopefuls dead in their tracks but by hook or by crook, these guys made it.

Valli and the four seaosnsWhat ensues is the story of their lives, punctuated with those glorious songs and sumptuous harmonies. It sounds simple but what makes it work so well is the perfect mix of gritty storyline and wonderfully delivered tunes.

This is no juke box hit parade. It's a tale that would stand alone without the songs- that's how interesting the story is. With them though, it is musical theatre at its very best.

Sam Ferriday, left, as Bob Gaudio, Stephen Webb as Tommy De Vito., Matt Corner as Frankie Valli and Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi. Pictures: Helen Maybanks

Every aspect of this show works. Super slick scene changes. Razor sharp and cool choreography. Spot on sound mixing and exciting orchestrations. This really is the full package.

Matt Corner captures Franki Valli, the rooky singer with that iconic falsetto, to perfection. It's not an easy voice to replicate but Corner absolutely nails it. Outstanding vocals and considered, sensitive acting combine to make a stand out performance.

Bob Gaudio was the creative mastermind. He wrote the music. He did the deals. He dug his heels in when producers wanted to do things their way. On top of that, he performed in the band- something he was never entirely comfortable with. Gaudio was the perfect match for Valli. He knew what songs would suit that special voice and the hits just kept on coming.

Sam Ferriday’s portrayal is mature and honest, contrasting the more impetuous nature of his fellow band members with a more business-like approach.

Stephen Webb oozes rascal charm as the flawed Tommy De Vito. Every band has the bad boy. The loose cannon. Webb captures this beautifully and gives his character huge likability.

Lewis Griffiths smoulders as bass player, Nick Massi. A man of few words and strong views on hotel towels. Griffiths gives Massi a soothing serenity – a safe anchor in the troubled sea of tantrums and fall outs. Griffiths also possesses one of the deepest voices I’ve ever heard. A bass player with a bass voice.

Good as the lead actors are, the show needs strong support and that is delivered in spades. Characters are seamlessly doubled up with skill and the energy onstage is consistently dynamic.

Sometimes a show comes along that just delivers on every level. This is one of them.

Joyful. Pulsating. Sublime. You must not miss this. To 20-02-16

Tom Roberts

10-02-16

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons managed only one UK No 1, December 1963 (Oh, what a night) in 1975, along with eight top 10 hits

Four Seasons discography

 

 

Season’s greetings

*****

WHEN the fantasic four end this award-winning show blasting out the hit Oh What a Night, it’s entirely appropriate. Oh, what a show.

The first night audience were on their feet joining in with gusto before heading for home, no doubt humming songs that made Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons a global sensation.

It’s easy to understand why the show is a near sell-out for its two-week run in the Black Country, because apart from being packed with hit after hit, it also gives a fascinating insight into the lives of the four ordinary lads from a tough district of America.

The background includes stories of crime, jail sentences, links with mobsters, big gambling debts as well as their loves and eventually massive success. It’s not all glamour on the way up.

It takes a little while to set the scene, but eventually the memorable songs like Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Working My Way Back to You and Bye Bye Baby leave you in no doubt why the four pals became one of the greatest bands of all time.

The cast, including the attractive girl singers and dancers, are a perfect fit, with Matt Corner brilliant as Frankie Valli, his remarkable falsetto voice thrilling the audience.

A stand-out performance, too, from Stephen Webb, playing the ambitious group leader Tommy DeVito whose gambling created a dangerous situation for the band, and Sam Ferriday (Bob Gaudio) and Lewis Griffiths (Nick Massi) are excellent, too.

Directed by Des McAnuff, with Sergio Trujillo’s choreography and Andrew Corcoran’s slick musical direction, Jersey Boys runs to 20.02.16. It includes some strong language which is necessary to reflect the rough background from which the lads managed to rise to fame.

Unmissable.

Paul Marston 

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