Oh, what a night it was watching Jersey Boys at the Sunderland Empire. I went in blind, knowing next to nothing about the musical. I knew quite a lot of the music previously as the show is full of songs you know and other songs you didn’t know were by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons but you’d been singing along to for years.
Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons from the day of their inception right up to the modern-day. For me, the show started quite slowly and it takes a while to find its feet but what is clear from the outset is that Michael Pickering who plays Valli has one of the most incredible voices I’ve ever heard. Even more than that, if you shut your eyes, all you can hear is Frankie Valli. His band members completed that Four Seasons sound played excellently by Lewis Griffiths, Blair Gibson and Dalton Wood. Wood plays an extremely unlikeable Tommy Devito and yet you’re still kind of rooting for them all to make it.
This production has some staging that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered before in the hundreds of musicals I’ve seen. Three times during the performance the main characters have their backs to the audience. It’s such clever but almost dangerous staging as you could potentially lose the audience but for some reason, their bold choices work and give it something extra that you don’t get in a lot of musicals.
Jersey Boys has all of the big hits, Oh What a Night, Sherri, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Bye Bye Baby and for me, the standout number of the night, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. I loved each and every song although for me the second half of the first act and the first half of the second act are where all of the good bits are. The musical seems to enter slowly and leave quietly, not a criticism, more of an observation.
Jersey Boys is a musical I’d been aware of for many years but had chosen not to go and see, I didn’t think it would be a musical I’d love being more a fan of contemporary hits but I was wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it took me back to a time whereas a child my parents played the music on the record player (yes, I am that old). Jersey Boys is a musical for all ages, you’ll learn something because it’s a true story, like who knew that Joe Pesci was involved in the creation of the group? I feel like I missed that part of the history lesson at school!
All in all Jersey Boys is a musical you bop to in your seat and the standing ovation was well deserved due to the outstanding performance of Pickering in the starring role, I don’t know how they found someone who would sound exactly like Valli but they have all the same. Jersey Boys is currently touring around the UK and you should definitely book a ticket if you like a joyful night out with musical numbers which stick in your head long after the curtain comes down.