Take it from me writes Andrew Gibbs, Jersey Boys – the story of the rise, fall and rise again of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – earned every ounce of the applause the cast received at the end.
There is a trend at the moment for world-famous music groups to write musicals based on their songs – Queen and Madness to name but two – but Jersey Boys is different: the story of the band that became one of the leading music acts of the 1960s.
It’s a rags-to-riches story that spans 50 years and therefore moves along at quite a pace. The audience is predominantly of an age to remember the Frankie Valli sound first time round (myself included) and by the time the first half is coming to an end are tapping their feet and dancing in their seat as the hits they know and love just keep on coming.
Even if the 1960s were before your time, you’ll recognise plenty of the songs: Walk Like a Man, Sherry, December 1963, Let’s Hang On, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Rag Doll and Bye Bye Baby (but wasn’t that the Bay City Rollers, a child of the 1970s might say…).
A nice touch is that the four main characters – Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi – take it in turns to narrate the show, each reflecting on the band’s history from an individual, personal perspective.
The chapters of the band’s history are also divided into the four seasons, each reflecting the hope, triumphs and challenges the band face along their road to success.
The story is strong and actors Tim Driesen (Valli), Henry Davis (DeVito), Sam Ferriday (Gaudio) and Lewis Griffiths (Massi) all deliver powerful vocal and acting performances.
The production is seriously slick, with fast yet seamless set changes by the cast themselves against a backdrop of eye-catching pop art comics that encapsulate the 1960s feel.
There’s also some great and memorable moments, most notably on several occasions when the four perform into on-stage cameras which then broadcast on to black and white screen above the stage – very different and you find yourself torn as to where to look.
Best of all is the ‘Four Seasons’ sound – recreated perfectly by the three band members behind Driesen’s wonderful falsetto reproduction of the Frankie Valli voice.
This is well above your average 1960s musical. It’s fun, lively, bright and spectacular. We loved it and I challenge you not to applaud your socks off at the end.
Jersey Boys is at Milton Keynes Theatre until February 14. www.atgtickets.com
Photo: Helen Maybanks