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Theatre Review: Jersey Boys at Theatre Royal

11 May 18 words: Anna Jesperson

Sixties superstardom comes via revenge, betrayal and crime...

Declan Egan, Dayle Hodge, Simon Bailey & Lewis Griffiths in Jersey Boys

The highly acclaimed and award winning musical, Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and their journey from the mean streets of Jersey to international super stardom.

As co-writer, Rick Elice puts it, “The story is Shakespearean in its scope. It’s about revenge and betrayal and crime and punishment and family and women.”

The story is broken up into four ‘seasons’ each narrated by one of the band members to give their own perspective on the ups and downs that they each went through on their way to being global superstars.… and what a compelling story they have to tell.

The Four Seasons cleaned themselves up to present themselves to mainstream America. But their backgrounds were far from clean. Connections with the mob, prison time, huge debts, broken hearts… This isn’t your run of the mill jazz hands cheesy musical. More of a gripping biography full of grit and, as Frankie Valli said, “a story told with as much truth as possible.”
Do not fear, Jersey Boys contains more triumph than heartache and is packed full of sequined costumes and upbeat hit songs that will definitely leave you feeling uplifted and bopping out of the theatre.

Even if you’re not a Four Seasons fan you will definitely recognise, and possibly start singing along to, the musical numbers that include, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Sherry”, “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)”, “Beggin’”, “Bye Bye Baby”, “Working My Way Back To You”, “Walk Like A Man” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

Frankie Valli was played by Dayle Hodge who did a marvellous job at impersonating that famous falsetto voice and really bringing the hit songs to life. The transition from unexperienced, awkward teenager to global star was particularly well captured. The rest of the band played by Simon Bailey, Declan Egan and Lewis Griffiths were all individually superb but as a group they really blew the audience away with their note perfect harmonies. There wasn’t a synced dance move out of place and between them, they provided a lot of comical as well as emotional moments. All four have performed with previous productions of Jersey Boys and they really are all a class act. Special mention should also go to the supporting cast who each played multiple characters and must have all been working extremely hard to do so.

The two storey set, although quite basic, really worked well with the flow of the story and the use of the whole height of the stage meant there was always a lot to look at and take in. The background screen projections really helped to create the scene and mood. There were props and jazzy costumes aplenty which gave the production the quality feel you would expect from a West End show.

The story is very fast paced so the scene and costume changes have to be too but both are seamless and slick. There are moments of involuntary audience participation as we unknowingly transform into the band’s very appreciative television studio audience. This part is particularly genius and the audience loved being involved.

By the end of the journey The Four Seasons make it into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and the audience are already on their feet, well before the show comes to an end. The standing ovation is truly deserved.

This touring production of Jersey Boys doesn’t feel like a show that has been knocking around on Broadway since 2005. It has indeed proven it’s staying power but it is full of fresh energy, passion and enthusiasm.

Although it wasn’t without trials and tribulations along the way, after seeing Jersey Boys, it is easy to see why they rocketed to fame and why their extensive catalogue of hits continue to stand the test of time. The resulting musical production is spectacular and if you want to spend the night surrounded by nostalgia and be transported straight back to the 60s then this is the show for you.

Jersey Boys plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 19 May 2018.

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