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REVIEW: Jersey Boys, Palace Theatre

"You know what you're going to get," says Joan Davies. "That's why you buy it."

Written by . Published on September 18th 2014.

REVIEW: Jersey Boys, Palace Theatre

HIT jukebox musical Jersey Boys has opened its UK national tour at Manchester’s Palace Theatre for a month long run.

It’s become a brand, as did the Four Seasons, with or without Frankie Valli. You know what you’re going to get, and that’s why you buy it.

Telling the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and recreating their strings of falsetto focused hits with startling accuracy, the show exhibits why it’s been such a worldwide hit, winning countless awards across the world.

The sound of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, unique, consistent and instantly recognisable is accurately reproduced, starting with early hits Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man. Characterised by Frankie’s soaring falsetto over attractive harmonies underpinned by Nick Massi’s gorgeous bass tones, the sound took the group to sustained chart success on both sides of the Atlantic before, during and after The Beatles invaded the USA.

An important thread through the teenage lives of post-war baby boomers, the sound is the key ingredient to the success of the show.

Jersey BoysJersey Boys

In terms of jukebox musicals this show has a stronger story than most, focusing on the New Jersery roots of the band, its occasional links with organised and disorganized crime and the emotional and family impact of success. Writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have simplified the tale, ignoring a string or personnel changes to concentrate on four key band members.

On press night Matt Corner took the role of Frankie Valli, exhibiting a perfect falsetto, cute dance moves and a winning ability to engage the audience. All four of the ‘Seasons’ get a chance to tell their part of the story. Stephen Webb has the role of Tommy DeVito, the small time crook and successful talent spotter whose risk-taking both propels the band to success and puts them in danger, and Sam Ferriday is genius song-writer Bob Gaudio, a key figure in the band’s unique style, capturing the essence of the two-minute pop song.

Lewis Griffiths takes the role of Nick Massi, effectively the band’s Ringo, to grab a good share of audience sympathy. They’re believable as a group where loyalites, tensions, support and occasional betrayals take them through failure and success. Tim Driesen will perform as Frankie Valli for most of the run, but the show’s demands are such that two actors are assigned to the role.

As jukebox musicals go, this is a great show. Set and costumes are simple and effective and support the act. The star of the show is the songs; distinctive, catchy, memorable, simple songs embellished with a stunning array of vocal talent enhanced with effectively projected charm. There’s a real sense that this band sings because they love to.

The back story alone is enough to take the show beyond tribute performance, and prompt a few thoughtful moments. Audiences for these shows accept there’s no great dramatic tension. My only quibble is the time taken before the first song soars – not counting the strange rap version which opens the show in a confusing hint at the timelessness of the music. That timelessness is better displayed by a view of the audience, far from being all baby-boomers, and their enjoyment.

Jersey BoysJersey Boys

Jersey Boys has won 55 awards, been seen by over nineteen million people and is even performed in Korea. It’s become a brand, as did the Four Seasons, with or without Frankie Valli. You know what you’re going to get, and that’s why you buy it.

The band, despite line-up changes, never lost their distinctive sound, never left-behind the catchy pop-song. They didn’t depart for the concept album, nor did they join the middle class hippies and ‘try to levitate The White House’. They stayed true to their working class roots, and stuck with the simple songs of love, friendship, betrayal and standing up for yourself and your friends.

Jersey Boys runs at The Palace Theatre, Oxford Road, Manchester until Saturday 4 October.

Tickets here.

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