Words by Mel Lynch
Winner of 57 major awards, over the years Jersey Boys has gained an enviable reputation which has no qualms in selling out seats worldwide. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons infamous songs defy generational differences to be beloved by all the family, and Jersey Boys portrays this admirably.
Historically musicals are often adapted from books or films, yet Jersey Boys is crafted from the astounding true story of how the band came to be. The narrative initially centres around three Italian-American men brought together with a love of music and a hankering for stardom. The introduction of Valli’s rare high-tenor to falsetto voice makes them all believe that success could be possible and the addition of legendary song-writer Gaudio into the group, brings with it the birth of the four seasons and the start of an unbelievable journey fraught with tragedy.
The four seasons is made up of Frankie Valli (Michael Watson), Tommy Devito (Simon Bailey), Bob Gaudio (Declan Egan) and Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths). As individuals, they were truly exceptional as both actors and vocalists, but as a quartet the men were a pinstriped powerhouse. The staging was intoxicatingly immersive, where the use of old crowd footage enabled audience members to feel like they were apart of the crowd at the Four Season’s initial concerts. Special regards have to be shown to Watson, for his chillingly good vocals that echoed that of Valli’s in his prime superbly. In addition to the awe-striking writing of Brickman and Elice, which without would not have made this important story the sensation it is.
Toxic masculinity is a prominent theme throughout the production, with their infamous song “walk like a man” provided the ideal backing soundtrack for the problematic dramas within the men’s lives. The first act was heavily laden with hyper-masculine ideologies and unchallenged gender roles that accurately portrayed the problematic beliefs present in that era, during which we gain the phrase “don’t lie to your mother and don’t tell the truth to your wife”. At times the lack of female stage presence did leave me wanting, where the women present in the lives of the four seasons were restricted to distant wives, waitresses or backing singers, with little to no character development. However, in the second act the relationship between Frankie and the neglect of his wife and children is explored further, adding a meaningful layer to the narrative.
The cheesy phrase “the soundtrack to entire generation” gets thrown around pretty frequently, but upon leaving the theatre I was in true awe with the realisation of the amount of iconic songs the group had penned. Sherry, Bye Bye Baby, Beggin’, Working My Way Back to You and December (1963) are to name a few of the beloved bangers produced in their time, and are still deeply cherished by generations today. Best displayed by the ubiquitous standing ovation the Jersey Boy’s received at the Millennium’s opening night.
Jersey Boys is an undeniable feel-good crowd-pleaser that will leave you humming their classics for the foreseeable future, I couldn’t recommend a production to see more this January at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre.