Jersey Boys is the classic story of Frankie Valli's rise to fame. This show has run and run for good reason. It’s a fantastic show and is now showing at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 3 February 2018 then continues its UK tour.
The story tells four different versions of the members of The Four Seasons. Tommy DeVito opens up the story by telling us he discovered Frankie and put him into his band. He often didn’t have much choice as there always seemed to be a band member in prison for something. When Tommy ends up inside its his friend and fellow band member Nick Massi who takes Frankie under his wing. Frankie also meets Mary and takes her out for dinner. Mary is impressed and when Frankie says he has changed his name to Vally, its Mary who says he should make it an ‘I’ instead of a Y. Her logic is that a Y doesn’t know what it is (is it a vowel?) and anyway as he is Italian he needs a vowel at the end. Of course, we all know that Frankie does use the I. The band keeps changing its name and really is struggling with its identity until Joe Pesci (yes that one) comes up to Tommy to say he has the perfect fourth member of the band and introduces him to Bob Gaudio. Bob is young but experienced and plays keyboard. Bob can write songs and has already had a hit with ‘Short Shorts’. Frankie insists he joins the band. It may take a while to realise but the show is set into four seasons. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. It’s a nice touch. When we get to summer, Bob takes over the narration from Tommy telling his version of the story. Bob is very motivated for the band’s success and he and Frankie get a contract as backing singers with Bob Crewe. They eventually change their name to The Four Seasons and have their first hit with Sherry. All the hits follow and the rest is history. Nick Massi narrates the fall section, telling us that Bob was so focused on the band's future that he couldn't see that the band was in trouble. Tommy is in financial crisis and also hits on Frankie's new girlfriend Lorraine. Frankie never mentions it to Tommy but freezes him out as he is so angry about this. Frankie takes over the narration in the winter section and it all seems to be falling apart as he has issues with his daughter, breaks up with his girlfriend and Nick leaves the band.
Expect all the hits including Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Working My Way Back To You, Walk Like A Man, Rag Doll, Who Loves You, Let’s Hang On and December 1963 (Oh What A Night) and some you may not realise were Valli/Gaudio hits such as Bye Bye Baby (a huge hit for the Bay City Rollers) and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You. Sadly, there are a few that didn’t make the cut, most notably Grease.
Michael Watson plays Frankie and he IS Frankie Valli. Even Frankie Valli would do a double take at his exceptional voice. It’s absolutely outstanding. He never falters or hits a bad note – he is also very likeable and plays the part with honour and conviction. His delivery is perfect and Michael is an all rounder as his acting is also brilliant. He is absolutely perfect for the role. Tommy DeVito is played by Simon Bailey and he is a bit of a heart-throb. Street smart with a love of music, Simon gives Tommy, this rough diamond, a heart. You like him even when he isn’t nice. Simon plays guitar, acts, sings, dances – he really demonstrates the importance of Tommy in The Four Seasons. Bob Gaudio is played by James Winter and James gives Bob a sense of ambition and trust. Bob and Frankie worked together for 40 years on the strength of a handshake and James and Michael give that relationship warmth. James is also a master of the keyboard. He is a Bob Gaudio in the making. Nick Massi is played by Karl James Wilson and not only is he an excellent bass player, but he has great delivery of his lines. Often delivered in a dry manner and with precision. Excellent work Karl. When The Four Seasons are on stage together the magic happens. It’s exciting and mesmerising. It feels very special.
All the cast are excellent but I want to give a special mention to Tara Young plays Mary. She is excellent in her role and her accent is flawless. Her timing arguing with Frankie is very realistic. I also enjoyed her line about the restaurant being posh – because they don’t serve pizza by the slice. There are lovely touches in the show such as using original footage of Ed Sullivan introducing them onto the show. The show starts with a French version of Oh What A Night but to be honest, this scene feels redundant. Most audience members would not be aware that it was a big hit by some rap star in France and nor do they care. The show finishes and although the audience hopes for a short medley at the end but only get Who Love’s You. The audience would love a much bigger medley to get up and dance to. Honestly, we just don’t want to go home.
Jersey Boys is such a fabulous show you will want to go again and again. Who loves you Jersey Boys? We do!