Let’s hear it for the boys
Jersey Boys, about the rise of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, has won plaudits a-plenty, but is this one to leave to the grannies? (Spoiler alert: Not at all!)
You’ve gotta love a rags to riches story. And it don’t get no better than the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – four boys from non-posh New Jersey, harbouring criminal records, back in the days when that sort of thing wasn’t really so cool, who went on to become one of the supergroups of 1960s America.
This is the story of Jersey Boys – the Olivier-winning West end stormer of a musical that rolled into Woking this week, and is here until Saturday next week (27 Oct), told against a backdrop of the mob, debt, fall-outs and tragedy.
I’m not a big fan of musicals that churn out a whole bunch of big songs and then shoehorn a story around it. But no! That’s not what’s happening here. And that’s one of the most gratifying parts of Jersey Boys – the story itself is true and compelling. Indeed, Bob Gaudio, one of the original four is on the creative team – so you get the feeling this is the real story. Not some story that’s been put together by celebrity autobiographers or publicists.
It sets off at a rollicking pace with Tommy Devito narrating, racing through the early years and events at an almost disconcerting pace. It felt so fast, that it was almost difficult to keep up with who was who, and where they were at, and what year we were at.
There is a lot of story to tell. And, I confess, I didn’t know much about Frankie Valli, nor the Four Seasons. I’m embarrassed to say that if you’d asked me to name a Four Seasons song, I’d probably have struggled. I’m a bit rubbish like that.
But once this show hit its stride, it really hit its stride. The story. The singing. Oh, the singing – let’s talk about that. Local boy Dayle Hodge was in the spotlight as Frankie Valli – a role that’s also played on this tour by Michael Watson – and boy can that boy sing, going high to a powerful spine-tingling fasetto with ease.
Remember those number one hits: ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Sherry’, ‘Walk Like a Man’ and ‘December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’? Yep – they’re all there. And they were all brilliantly performed. Fans for the real Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons won’t be disappointed.
And almost certainly they weren’t. The theatre was full, and the crowd were clapping along – or as in the case of the dozen or so women in the seats behind me, singing along – pretty much from the outset. The fandom only ramped up further as night went on and the more memorable hits were belted out.
By the close of the show everyone was on their feet and there were certainly whoops (actually a couple of screams – I really do have to control myself). There were a large number of older theatre goers – as you’d expect – but actually a fair number of younger ones too. I think Lewis Griffiths, who played Nick Massi, in particular has quite an ardent fan base! But of course, this is the guy who played Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing on the West End.
It’s difficult to single out any one of the actors. Simon Bailey, who played Tommy Devito, the morally corrupt founder of the Four Seasons, was brilliant with his gravelly voice and authenticity, and Declan Egan as Bob Gaudio captured the sweet and innocence of the young Bob, and also showed some great coming timing.
The ensemble cast did an excellent supporting job – James Alexander Gibbs as a young Joe Pesci, who introduced song writer Bob Gaudio to the group, had great timing, and Joel Elferink played the effete music producer Bob Crewe to perfect comic effect.
I’d spoken to several friends before seeing this show who’d all been before and loved it, so although you’d think on first glance it’s just for older audiences, I think you’ll love it too. One word of warning – the language is very ‘Jersey’, with more F-words than even an average teenager can throw at you.
Jersey Boys is at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until Saturday 27 October. Book tickets
TICKET GIVEAWAY – THIS COMP HAS ENDED
We have a pair of tickets to see Jersey Boys at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.
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The closing date is FRI 19 OCT at 5pm.
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