Image: Helen Maybanks
Riding on the back of a huge wave that hit Broadway a decade ago and saw massive success in the West End, Jersey Boys may not have the original cast on this current tour, but that hasn’t stopped the magic one bit.
This is no ordinary jukebox musical. There is actually something real and gutsy about this show. Unlike other productions where a storyline is constructed around, and sometimes awkwardly shoe-horned into, musical numbers, Jersey Boys feels truly genuine, and that’s because it was based on the real lives and experiences of The Four Seasons themselves.
The story follows the band from their early beginnings to the highs and lows of stardom. On the way they experience relationship breakdowns, extreme debt, and bereavement; and their loyalty to each other is tested to the limit. The writing is superb, with Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice delivering a brave yet sensitive account of the lives of four guys from New Jersey who made it out of a world of petty crime, prison time, and the power of the mob, to the top of the tree; all the while injecting an ample measure of humour which keeps the foot-tapping show bouncing along.
In order, however, for the show to work it is imperative that the actor playing Frankie Valli is able to sing like Frankie Valli. Let’s face it; it can’t be easy to replicate his falsetto voice, but Matt Corner, who plays him, has it all. Not only does he have the requisite vocal range, coupled with a beautiful tone that, if you close your eyes, really could be Valli himself; Corner also has an on-stage presence that draws you in and makes you believe in him. Tragedy marks moments of Valli’s career and Corner plays these with the perfect amount of gravity and sensitivity.
The other actors and musicians in the show are equally talented. Lewis Griffiths’ deep baritone, as Nick Massi, beautifully matches his strong, silent persona, but when he complains about tiny hotel soaps and explodes after ten years of keeping quiet about a problem he has with towels, his personality really comes to life in a delightful way.
Going to see a musical about some lads from New Jersey, you should definitely expect to hear that distinctive Jersey accent. It is just a small shame that at moments the accent is so strong that it is easy to lose parts of the dialogue and, on the night, a couple of the cast members slipped out of their accents momentarily. Nevertheless, the show is otherwise faultless. The back screen projections, designed by Michael Clark, perfectly frame each scene and add a great deal to the production. The choreography, by Sergio Trujillo, is slick and instantly arresting from the very first scene.
This show has a great number of things going for it: the cast is extremely talented, and the energy they each put into every performance is incredible. Most of the actors play a number of parts, wear no end of wigs – kudos to Charles LaPointe, the Wig Designer who really had his work cut out for him here – and, on the night viewed, one of the female actors was unwell, so Leanne Garretty, Samantha Hull and Amy West did a truly amazing job of sharing all the female parts between them.
Jersey Boys is well worth a visit if you can get your hands on some tickets. It’s not quite five stars material, but it is close, and it’s certainly guaranteed to leave you with one thought at the end of the show – Oh, What a Night!
Four and a half stars
I saw Jersey Boys at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton on 27th January 2016
Originally written for http://www.thereviewshub.com and reproduced here with their permission