Jersey Boys Review

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.

Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain Review

Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East


Writer: Terry Deary, Neal Foster
Music: Matthew Scott
Director: Neal Foster

The Birmingham Stage Company presents Barmy Britain in Darlington. Rog (Gary WIlson) and Rex (Benedict Martin) have to convince parking wardens Esmeralda (Laura Dalgleish) and Queenie (the divinely vocal Alison Fitzjohn) that Britain is Barmy or they will get a parking ticket.

The audience are taken on a trip through time with themes all will recognise, including Boudicca singing ‘I Will Smash You’ to the tune of ‘We Will Rock You’ to the Romans. Phil Spencer does an episode of Location, Location, Location in Lindisfarne with the Vikings and a date between Edward Longshanks and William Wallace is arranged during an episode of Take Me Out. At this performance, a child from the audience was cured of the plague in Wales, while everyone sang a happy song about the symptoms. Blue Peter interviewed a very petulant Henry VIII and Elizabeth I posed as “Betty from London” for Undercover Boss. In a shock revelation, she discovers the executioner doesn’t get paid but does get to keep the clothes of his victims, and that the whipping boy was punished for a Prince’s mistakes as it was an offence to touch royalty (and the Groom of the Stool held the highly prestigious job as Royal Bottom Wiper).

The second half is brought to us by 3d Bogglevision, for which the audience are invited to wear special glasses. Again, we are treated to a very busy Guy Fawkes who (very thoughtfully) spared time tonight to take part in Who Wants to Blow up Parliament, where he has the options to phone a friend, go 50/50 or ask the audience if we think his plan to blow up parliament will succeed.

Barmy Britain takes us from Guy Fawkes to Charles I and II via Oliver Cromwell and an episode of TOWIE starring Dick Turpin and the Essex Gang. There’s even a jaunty tune about being hung at Marble Arch called ‘The Tyburn Jig’.

The show doesn’t miss a beat, as it quickly moves on to a hip hop break dancing Queen Victoria (known as Vicky with a V and Albert with an A). Forward in time to the 1st World War, and the victor decided by way of a WWE wrestling match, but rather beautifully poignant as it includes the dropping of CGI 3D poppies as a sign of respect among the comedy.

We finish on a high as Queenie and Esmerelda agree that Rog and Rex are right and Britain is indeed off-its-rocker barmy, ending with a chorus of Barmy Britain to the tune of ‘If You’re Happy and You Know it’.

Barmy Britain is fast, fun and educational. We learn the Celts put severed heads in rivers as a gift to the Gods, and Longshanks was so called because he was over 6 foot tall and Henry VIII ordered the execution of 72,000 people.

Billed as suitable for ages 6 to 106, the show is fantastic. Borrow some children and get to the Civic before Sunday to see it. It’s a win-win situation, you will love the show and the kids will love you for taking them. Monty Python meets Pantomime via the GCSE History syllabus – this is a show not to be missed!