Thursday 27 April 2023

Jersey Boys

 Curve, Leicester

26th April, 2023

After eight bars, I know I need to write for this voice

It’s strange how you can see a long-running musical for the first time and feel like you’re jumping back into a well-worn jacket. Such is the brand awareness and public appeal of the jukebox musical charting the founding, success and tribulations of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. On trips to the West End growing up, when passing the Prince Edward Theatre, seeing the backs of the four red jerseys always struck me as an iconic poster. And after 4,600 performances on Broadway, a successful London run, and multiple tours and international productions, Jersey Boys (2004) is like a well-oiled machine by now. Des McAnuff’s Tony and Olivier award winning production is now touring the UK where it’s currently enjoying a two-week run at Leicester’s Curve.

Marshall Brickman’s and Rick Elice’s book creates a documentary style story lifting the lid on the group’s rags to riches back story. On its premiere, founding member Bob Gaudio said not much was known about their story, and that they went against the squeaky-clean image of many of their contemporaries such as Frank Sinatra and Neil Sedaka. The musical goes back to the roots of the band, introducing us to four normal guys from New Jersey with mob connections, prison sentences and friendships with Joe Pesci. Brickman and Elice present short scenes which swiftly move on to the next. While this structure gives the story pace, it does compromise characters’ depth. The overall effect is that we’re given a biographical breakdown of events which sometimes lacks emotional grit or purpose. Not that this matters at all. The back stories provide context and substance but the main enjoyment comes when the group has formed and perform their polished numbers for the audience. When the four members align in their various jerseys, with broad smiles, coiffed hair and synchronised dance movements, the show really comes alive. At one point, Bob says he’s never heard a voice like Frankie Valli’s. That’s certainly true. These numbers, led by Michael Pickering’s falsetto, are captivating. The remaining cast members mostly play peripheral characters; I found Damien Winchester particularly impressive both vocally and in his multiple characterisations.

McAnuff’s staging serves the story well, and whilst its fairly traditional you can’t fault its smoothness. A drum kit roams the stage, mic stands slide on and off, swivel chairs whizz on, lit-up signs fly in and out with the efficiency you’d expect of a long-runner. Klara Zieglerova’s design of metal staircases and walkways is complemented by Michael Clark’s art deco projections and Howell Binkley’s lighting, which at the end of act one shines bright into the audience as the group recreates that iconic pose from the poster. And numbers like ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Walk Like a Man’, ‘December 1963’ and ‘My Eyes Adored You’ prove why The Four Seasons were a hit factory – and Jersey Boys, almost 20 years on from its premiere at La Jolla Playhouse, still a hit.

Jersey Boys concludes its UK tour at Curve, Leicester on 6th May. The West End production is booking at the Trafalgar Theatre into 2024. For further information, please visit

(L-R) Blair Gibson (Bob Gaudio), Michael Pickering (Frankie Valli), Dalton Wood (Tommy DeVito) and Christopher Short (Nick Massi) outside Curve, Leicester. Photography by Hitz Rao

No comments:

Post a Comment