Jersey Boys – Empire Theatre, Sunderland
Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East
Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music: Bob Gaudio
Lyrics: Bob Crewe
Choreographer: Sergio Trujillo
Director: Des McAnuff
It’s easy to see why Jersey Boys is such an award winning and popular musical. It’s a feel good night out and jam-packed with hit after hit. Seeing this musical for the first time you may be fooled into thinking you’re unfamiliar with the songs, but once you hear them, they are all recognisable.
Long before Bon Jovi put New Jersey on the map, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tells how the boys from the wrong side of the tracks rose to stardom. One of the most successful bands in pop history, they were inducted into the Rock &Roll Hall of Fame and sold 175 million records – while still in their twenties. Jersey Boys is a rags-to-riches Cinderella story, the tale of four young boys who try to break out of their poor, crime-ridden neighbourhood by starting a band. Fast forward a few years, and they are playing to thousands, selling a hundred million records. The money and the girls are rolling in. But Jersey Boys looks beyond the number one records, to the realities of fame and a life permanently on the road. Neglected families, angry mob bosses and the internal politics of four egos sharing the same space eventually catch up with the boys; tough for them, but fascinating for us.
The cleverest part of Jersey Boys is the structure. As founder member Tony DeVito says at the start:
The show is split into Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, giving each band member a chance to tell the audience their side of the story; all of them working their way into the audiences affections. Regardless of their various differences, we know and care about Bob Gaudio, Tony DeVito, Nick Massi and Frankie Valli, and it’s that which gives their song lyrics extra resonance.
On press night, the phenomenal Matt Corner took the rôle of Frankie Valli, showing a perfect falsetto, dance moves and an ability to engage the audience. All four of the ‘Seasons’ get a chance to tell their part of the story. Stephen Webb has the rôle of Tommy DeVito, the small time crook and successful talent spotter whose risk-taking both propels the band to success and puts them in danger. Sam Ferriday is genius song-writer Bob Gaudio, capturing the essence of the two-minute pop song. Lewis Griffiths takes the rôle of Nick Massi. They’re believable as a group where loyalties, tensions, support and occasional betrayals take them through failure and success.
Before the pantomimes take over, get yourself down to the Empire for a guaranteed night of pure enjoyment. A true story with the familiar falsetto tunes and a night of singing and dancing, you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face.
Recommended to all.