Jersey Boys

Hit musical about the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to stardom.
L to R: Declan Egan, Michael Watson, Simon Bailey and Lewis Griffiths star. Photo Credit: Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg
New Theatre, Tues 18 December - Sun 6th January 2019

Since opening on Broadway in 2005, Jersey Boys has been making waves across the world, scooping up Tonys, Grammys and an Olivier award. The most recent UK tour broke box office records, and the cast currently preparing for the New Theatre show have all been hand-picked from successful performances of previous runs in the West End and beyond.

The show is based on the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons so you can expect an evening packed with big hits, many of which you may recognise without having realised where they originally came from: Beggin’, 1963 (Oh What a Night), Bye Bye Baby and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You to name but a few.

Daily Info were lucky enough to meet the main cast: Michael Watson who will be playing Frankie Valli, Simon Bailey who will play Tommy De Vito, Declan Egan as Bob Gaudio and Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi. They are excited about being in Oxford over Christmas as our reputation as a festively picturesque city precedes us, and display a great chemistry that comes from months of rehearsing together every day.

What the actors emphasize is that the show, which will be gritty in places, has an ultimately uplifting feel - they have witnessed many an audience getting out of their chairs mid-show to dance (although this is not officially encouraged!), as well as an opportunity to learn the fascinating story behind these iconic favourite tunes. While Jersey Boys may not be a traditional Christmas show, it is bound to put people in a festive mood this December.

December 20, 2018
My eyes (and ears) adored it

Jersey Boys the musical, a recipient of numerous awards including a Tony and an Olivier, has been wowing audiences around the world since it premiered on Broadway in 2005. The show, which ran in London from 2008-2017, is currently on its second UK tour, and is this year’s festive season offering at the New Theatre Oxford.

Described as a ‘jukebox musical’, Jersey Boys tells the rags-to-riches story of four talented blue-collar New Jersey boys who rose to international fame in the 1960s as Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The show, based on the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, documents the band’s history from the perspective of the four group members. The chapters are cleverly divided into ‘four seasons’ and narrated in turn by one of the ‘boys’. They each reflect on the group members’ musical and personal journeys from the ‘Spring’ formation through to the ‘Winter’ of discontent when they disband. Under the slick direction of Des McAnuff and choreography of Sergio Trujilla, this format works extremely well as the ‘warts and all’ biographies link seamlessly with the band’s substantial repertoire of songs.

The Spring narrative is delivered by founding band member Tommy DeVito, who has the foresight to recruit Frankie Valli (formerly Francis Castelluccio) as lead singer of the ensemble. DeVito, a gambler with connections with the mob (played with appropriate swagger by Simon Bailey), accumulates debts which contribute to the band’s demise. The Summer season is given to songwriter Bob Gaudio who sees the unique value of Valli and signs a side deal with him. Gaudio pens the band’s first major hit ‘Sherry’. Declan Egan as Gaudio treats us to a wonderful rendition of ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’. Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths), the bass guitarist with the big bass voice, has a strop in Fall and leaves the group, a perfect cue for ‘Stay’ and ‘Let’s Hang On (to What We’ve Got)’.

Winter is left to Frankie Valli, though his personal story also weaves through the earlier seasons. His domestic life has played second fiddle to his musical career and extra-curricular cavorting, and the ensuing scenes of sorrow and strife with his wife Mary Delgado and daughter Francine are sensitively portrayed. Michael Watson as Valli has the voice of an angel and a vocal range that soars and soothes through hit after hit. Highlights for me were his renditions of ‘My Eyes Adored You’, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, and the tragic ‘Fallen Angel’.

The set by Klara Zieglerova and costumes by Jess Goldstein are totally in tune with the storytelling and the music. From the gold jackets for ‘Walk Like a Man’ to the orange and black silhouette of drums and telegraph poles, the design is as much in harmony with the songs and stories as the pitch-perfect singing and dancing.

After twenty years apart the Four Seasons reconvene for their induction into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and perform ‘Rag Doll’ in more sombre attire. Jersey Boys finishes on a high with ‘Who Loves You’ and gives the impetus for some bopping in the stalls and well-deserved applause for the cast and musicians who deliver this energetic, feel-good, toe-tapping musical with aural and visual panache.

May 14, 2015

With over 3000 performances under its belt in the West End, and after winning awards galore, including the prestigious Olivier Award for the Best New Musical, Jersey Boys is showing at the New Theatre in Oxford until 23 May, as part of its UK tour.

Unlike some other rather sugary musicals, this is a gritty, real-life story. It charts the journey of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, as they become a worldwide phenomenon with a string of thirteen top ten hits, through to their eventual induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To a sixties generation most of the songs will be familiar, but many more will recognise the hits without knowing they were originally by the Four Seasons.

The struggle for success is retold from different viewpoints. Stephen Webb, as the rogue Tommy DeVito, is excellent in setting the scene. His family have a ‘revolving door to the local jail’! These are real people who have their own flaws and inflated egos, but the funny and sometimes bawdy script keeps it entertaining. There is strong language throughout and the personal cost to the characters in terms of relationships is clear, although these darker moments are often relieved by hilarious one-liners.

West End star Tim Driesen, supported by an amazingly talented cast, is superb as Frankie Valli, completely mastering that distinctive falsetto sound. The group’s tight harmonies are perfectly replicated and praise should also go to the excellent band.

The songs’ lyrics are simple, with ‘ooo-wahs’ a plenty, but each is a mini story that speaks to their working class generation, identifying the struggles of being born on the wrong side of town. Musically the songs are deceptively clever and all completely different; the upbeat ‘December 1963’ a dramatic contrast to the soulful ‘My Eyes Adore You’. There is plenty of humour too with ‘Walk Like a Man’, the story of a father consoling his lovelorn son, sung in the highest falsetto.

In the end, as Frankie says, ‘when everything is stripped away – it’s all about the music’. Judging by the rapturous applause and the standing ovation, like me, many in the audience will travel home saying ‘Oh What a Night’.

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