There was a huge degree of anticipation in the air as Jersey Boys opened at the Palace Theatre, launching its first ever UK Tour. The multi-award winning musical, which tells the story of the rise to fame of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, opened on Broadway in 2006 and has already been seen by over 19 million people worldwide. Now it was time to face the Manchester audience.
Like a surreal dream, Jersey Boys opened with a hip-hop version of one of The Four Seasons biggest hits Oh What a Night. It was a confusing way to begin a show where the action that follows is set in the 60s and seemed a baffling decision made by director Des McAnuff. Despite trying to illustrate that their music is still as relevant today the scene was unnecessary and the sound levels were all over the place. Thankfully, like a bad dream, it only lasted 5 minutes and was erased from memory to be replaced by some slick performances and engaging storytelling.
As the show progresses each member of The Four Seasons step forward to take on a narrator role giving their own version of events that led them from the streets of New Jersey to become one of the most successful bands in pop history, selling 175 million records – all before they turned 30.
Jersey Boys isn’t a story that is sugar coated for the stage, there’s a plethora of the ‘f-word’, love affairs and a fair amount of gangster goings on-all of which are true as this is based on a real story. One of the most bizarre pieces of trivia that emerges in the show is that pint sized Italian American actor Joe Pesci was integral in helping form the band and kept close friends with them throughout their turbulent career (you couldn’t make that up could you)!
You don’t have to be a die hard Four Seasons fan to enjoy what’s on offer here and, to be honest, you will be amazed at just how many of their hit songs you instantly recognize including Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.
Due to the illness of lead Tim Driesen on press night, Matt Corner filled the shoes of falsetto frontman Frankie Valli and they seemed to fit him perfectly. Corner alternates with Tim Driesden in the role for certain performances and had the part down to a t. The vocals were incredible and the crowd were Beggin’ for more on a number of occasions with their rapturous and unstoppable applause, especially during his spine-tingling version of My Eyes Adored You.
Mentions must go to Stephen Webb, Sam Ferriday and Lewis Griffiths who expertly portrayed the rest of the members that made up The Four Seasons starring as wise-guy guitarist Tommy DeVito, songwriter Bob Gaudio and bass singer Nick Massi respectively.
My one criticism would be that the first half is a tad too long. There’s 22 songs crammed in, making you gasping for a drink by the 9pm interval. The pace picks up again in the second half but don’t expect the curtain to fall till after 10.15pm as there’s still lots of tracks to get through and a medley finale that has everyone dancing in the aisles.
A standing ovation cemented the fact Jersey Boys was a huge success and I am sure there will be many more of them during this month long Manchester run.
Palace Theatre Manchester
Thu 4 Sep – Sat 4 Oct 2014