Royal & Derngate, Northampton
“It’s a classic American story. It’s rags to riches, and back to rags.”
Frankie Valli, rose to fame in 1962 as the lead singer of the Four Seasons but thanks to the hugely successful Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award – winning musical Jersey Boys classic songs such as Big Girls Don’t Cry, Sherry, Walk Like a Man, Rag Doll, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), 1963 (Oh What a Night), and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You are enjoying a new life, all over again, almost sixty years later!
LtoR. Christopher Short , Ryan Heenan, Blair Gibson & Dalton Wood
Over thirty four songs were listed in the programme notes although very few of them are performed in full! I was surprised how many of them I immediately recognised but had not associated with the Four Seasons. I am of an age that I remember (Who wears) Short Shorts by Freddie & The Dreamers and Bye Bye Baby by the Bay City Rollers when they were prominent in the pop charts!
The show is packed with Four Seasons hits but for me songs such as My Eyes Adored You, Cant Take My Eyes Off You & Working My Way Back To You clearly emphasised the quality of the song writing & musicianship of the band. Many musical biographers at the time were happy to lightly dismiss The Four Seasons as a middle of the road pop band! To me their musical influence on later music acts such as the Bee Gees, with their prominent falsetto vocals & perfect harmonies were obvious & clear to appreciate.
Ryan Heenan as Frankie Valli
The set changes were some of the quickest I have ever seen with tables & chairs swung on & off stage at regular intervals and locations changing just as fast! The `cut throat` nature of the music business with its shady dealings, corruption & the damaging effect on the lives of many involved was plainly illustrated in the dramatic passages. His rendition of `Fallen Angel` dedicated to Valli`s youngest daughter Francine, from his marriage to Mary Delgado (Kirsty Whelan), who reportedly died from a drug overdose was movingly interpreted.
In amongst the drama & the music were a number of comic moments too! The scene in the car when an impressionable Valli is fooled into thinking someone had been shot dead in the front passenger seat of the car he was in, complete with a very loud shot ringing out across the auditorium & red fluid pouring from the `victims` mouth was at first shocking then hilarious as the deceit quickly emerges with laughter & relief from across the theatre.
Jersey Boys is presented in a documentary-style format that dramatizes the formation, success & eventual break-up of the group. The musical is structured as four “seasons”, each narrated by a different member of the band who give their own perspective on the group’s history & music.
LtoR. Blair Gibson, Dalton Wood, Ryan Heenan & Christopher Short
In this touring production, Ryan Heenan played Frankie Valli, alongside Christopher Short as Nick Massi, Blair Gibson as Bob Gaudio & Dalton Wood as Tommy DeVito.
Spring – Dalton Wood as Tommy DeVito – A simply breath-taking performance from Dalton Wood as the imperious, arrogant & domineering founder & lead guitarist of The Four Seasons. His financial complications with a loan shark and suspected involvement of the New Jersey mafia were an interesting and entertaining sub plot to the musical tribulations. He is eventually forced to leave the group & is packed off to Las Vegas to work out his debt. It is said that to this day, Bob & Frankie still maintain their partnership with a `Jersey contract` ….a firm handshake!
LtoR. Ryan Heenan as Frankie Valli & Dalton Wood as Tommy DeVito
Summer – Blair Gibson as Bob Gaudio – The hugely successful songwriter, producer & keyboard player of The Four Seasons who went on to write & produce huge hits for Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand & many others. The youngest and last member to join the Four Seasons, Blair Gibson portrayed Bob Gaudio perfectly, he certainly had me believing in him! He also has a wonderful singing voice!
Fall – Christopher Short as Nick Massi – The bass player of The Four Seasons. He was older than Valli but encouraged him to sing at a local bowling alley. Deep voiced Christopher Short was a real cool customer portraying Massi as a man of few words & uncomfortable with the trappings & fame of a successful pop band. In the musical Valli describes his death on Christmas Eve, of all days, as that of a good catholic!
LtoR. Blair Gibson, Ryan Heenan, Dalton Wood & Christopher Short
Winter – Frankie Valli – lead vocalist of The Four Seasons. Ryan Heenan as Franki Valli was outstanding. Short in stature like Valli himself and a fantastic singing voice, Ryan was perfectly cast as the young downtrodden `New Jersey` teenager who blossoms into a smart, street wise, hugely successful vocalist & burgeoning businessman. Meanwhile the man himself, Frankie Valli, who is 89 years old on May 3, is still touring the states from coast to coast to sold out crowds!
Finale – Bob Crewe – The record producer that signed the group before they renamed themselves as The Four Seasons. He helped them record and release their music and describes The Four Seasons‘ 1990 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which reunited the original four members on stage one with one last rendition of Rag Doll! Each original member of the band took a brief moment to address the audience in turn, each receiving loud applause at the end of his few words, explaining his pride at having been in the band & what he did afterwards. The final song, Who Loves You bought the whole company including the musicians together on stage to a standing ovation.
Kirsty Whelan as Mary Delgado & Ryan Heenan as Frankie Valli
It was great to hear & see a live band on stage and the recognition of their contributions to the show when the final curtain came down as the musicians were playing out the final notes much to the appreciation of the departing audience.
Looking for a great night out? Jersey Boys will have you tapping your feet, humming along to the now familiar songs. It will have you engaging in a story of revenge, betrayal, crime & punishment, family, women & everything in between told through the voices & songs of four `guys from New Jersey who simply wrote & played their music`.
Jersey Boys continues on the Derngate stage until Saturday 1 April at 7.30pm, with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Tickets – priced from £17* – can be booked by calling Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at www.royalandderngate.co.uk.