Jersey Boys at the New Alex: 1963 never sounded so good

The story of music legends Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is being told on stage at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 6 Jan 2018.

You might not be familiar with the history of the Four Seasons. They didn’t inspire the kind of rapt response or social movement that the Beatles did, but back in the Sixties, they were the working man’s group. “Our fans were the guys who were flipping burgers and pumping gas and the girls behind the counter at the diner,” says Bob Gaudio at one point in Jersey Boys; a quote lifted directly from the real life Gaudio.

As Jersey Boys begins, that’s what the band are; just a couple of normal guys trying to put a band together while working a bunch of crappy jobs and trying to stay out of jail in New Jersey. When they meet a pint-sized teenager with the voice of an angel by the name of Frankie, they start to think they might be onto something special.

The show is structured in four acts; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, representing the rise and decline of the group, with each season narrated by a different member of the band. They all remember things very differently; a clever, Rashomon-inspired conceit which allows the audience to experience the same key events in the band’s history from multiple perspectives. The repetition never becomes laboured, and ultimately, it’s not about the ‘what’ or the ‘when’ of things. Instead, the narration focuses on illuminating who these four men are.

It’s easy to understand why writers Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman didn’t want to overcomplicate the storytelling; that might have distracted from the music, which is far and away the best thing about Jersey Boys. The Four Seasons were, after all, something of a hit factory in their day, and it’s impossible not to want to sing along to classics like ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Sherry’, ‘Walk Like A Man’, ‘December 1963 (Oh What A Night)’, ‘Working My Way Back To You’, and of course, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. The lesser-known songs are just as enjoyable, as each and every one is meticulously placed to enhance the story, from ‘I’m In The Mood For Love’ to ‘My Mother’s Eyes’ and the moving closing number, ‘Who Loves You’, which encapsulates the years of friendship and loyalty which weathered all of the band’s ups and downs.

The four core cast members are absolutely fantastic, each bringing their own unique energy to their character’s unreliable narration and to the group performances. Lewis Griffiths is intense and charismatic as bassist Nick Massi, Declan Egan is disarmingly wide-eyed and earnest as songwriter Bob Gaudio, Simon Bailey always manages to keep the audience on side as the shifty but ultimately loveable rogue Tommy Devito… and Michael Watson is superb as Frankie. He’s on stage for almost the entire duration of the show, and his singing voice, so close to that of the man himself, is what elevates this production of Jersey Boys from good to great.

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