THEATRE: Jersey Boys (Oxford)

Presented by A Dodger Theatricals, David Ian/Michael Watt, Ambassadot Theatre group

Music by Bob Gaudio, Lyrics by Bob Crewe; Directed by Des McAnuff

at the New Theatre, Oxford until Sunday 6th Jan 2018

Based on the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, this is the tale of  a bunch of four young lads from New Jersey who were walking on the wrong side of the tracks and went on to make it massive in the charts with hit after hit after legendary hit, written by nice-boy band member Bob Gaudio (played by Declan Egan): Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye); Big Girls Don’t Cry; Walk like a Man; Sherry and Working my way back to you, to pick just a few.

Fittingly, the band is on stage throughout and the set is simple – an iron structure with pieces wheeled on and off to be a bar, a stage, a bedroom, a prison and a hospital as required by the story and the occasional simple Roy Lichenstein-esque image on a screen/or a TV show cleverly broadcast live from the stage  – as this show is all about the music.

And the lives of The Four Seasons, the original four acclaimed stars are played out on stage with remarkable likeness to both looks and voice. While Simon Bailey held the stage as Italian-American bad boy Tommy DeVito from the outset, Michael Watson as Frankie Valli sang across the whole range with strength and confidence including the surprising and challenging falsetto that defines Frankie Valli’s classic tracks.

As well as following the progress of the band from the 1960s, each character’s tale is narrated separately. Family matters, and family is hard to maintain on the road, and with the temptations of the road. And is wealth riches; or is the family left behind the true measure of a man and his happiness? Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths), Tommy’s sidekick, in particular steps into the spotlight occasionally to give a different slant on events as things begin to unravel, and a large hole in their financial situation comes to light. One by one the members of the band fall by the wayside so that The Four Seasons become a Narnian winter. Where will Frankie take things now? A long-promised brass band may herald a new winning streak but life continues to have its ups and downs all set to cracking jukebox music that kept the packed auditorium clapping until the end of forty years with The Four Seasons. And then they stood up and danced in the aisles!

Oh What a Voice! Oh What a Night it was! Highly recommended.


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