Jersey Boys is a spectacular show telling the story of Frankie Valli's roller-coaster life. If you want a great story, smart script, fantastic songs and to leave the theatre with that feel good feeling – this is the show for you.
The story tells four different perspectives of the story of The Four Seasons. Tommy DeVito introduces the story by telling us he discovered Frankie and put him into his band. Frankie is reluctant but soon realises the attention he gets from the ladies when he sings. He falls for Mary and it’s Mary who says he is Italian so Vally should be spelt with an I. The band keeps changing its name and struggles 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 can write songs and has already had a hit with ‘Short Shorts’. It may take a while to realise but the show is set into four seasons. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. When we get to summer, Bob takes over the narration from Tommy telling his version of the story. They change their name to The Four Seasons and have their first hit with Sherry. All the hits follow. 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 takes over the narration in the winter section where it all seems to be falling apart as he has issues with his daughter, breaks up with his girlfriend and Nick leaves the band.
All the hits are delivered with a real pazazz. Expect to hear 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 Pickering plays Frankie and oh boy can he reach those high notes. He is outstanding, very likeable and Michael plays the part with conviction. Tommy DeVito is played by Dalton Wood and is so authentic that I had to check if he was from Jersey. Dalton plays Tommy as street smart would not be out of place in an episode of Sopranos, so you like him but are also a little wary of him.
Bob Gaudio is played by Blair Gibson and plays Bob with a sense of ambition and transforms Bob into an instantly likable guy, albeit a bit innocent. Blair has a very expressionate face and we often know how he is feeling with no words. Nick Massi is played by Lewis Griffiths and Lewis plays Nick as uber cool. His delivery of lines, in his dry manner often steal the scenes. I liked him even more when you hear he wants clean towels and a tidy hotel room. But is all Four Seasons together on stage that make that magic happen. It’s exciting and mesmerising. As Frankie says ‘It was when they were first discovering their sound; that was the most exciting time.'
There are lovely touches in the show such as using original footage of Ed Sullivan introducing them onto the show. The story flows comfortably as each member narrates when sets change so there is a lovely continuity throughout the show and I like the use of the screen and pop art backgrounds. The band also deserve a mention – they were on point and executed the numbers beautifully.
At the finale, there is a small opportunity for the audience to get up and dance, but it is not long enough. No one in that audience is ready to go home. That’s how exuberant this show is. You could watch it time and time again. It’s a classic and one of the best jukebox musicals there is. You will leave the theatre exclaiming ‘oh what a night!‘
Jersey Boys is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 5 March.