(Oh) What a Night to be had as the international smash hit arrives in Newcastle.
Multi award-winning play, Jersey Boys recounts the life of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons from the mean streets of New Jersey to the pinnacle of pop music success.
The play opens on the band’s blue collar beginnings with Tommy De Vito (a rogueish turn from Simon Bailey), the band’s slippery guitarist and original driving force. Tommy notes Frankie’s undisputed talent, offering him a spot in the band alongside jailbird, bass guitarist Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths) – a self appointed “Ringo” who has faint ambitions of making it solo in one of the play’s many running jokes.
The play neatly follows the structure of the “Four Seasons” beginning in Spring with the band’s frequent name changes. From the Variety Trio to The Romans to The Four Lovers.
We even see a young Frankie cut his 1953 debut single “My Mother Eyes” as “Frankie Valley” – a moniker he’s later advised to drop on a date with his future wife, Mary.
“When you’re Italian, your name’s got to end in a vowel.” She spells out. Before quipping “Delgado? Castellucio? Pizza?!”
Alongside playing a series of early gigs, the gang – guided by Tommy – are sucked into a world of crime, pulling B&E’s (breaking & entering) in an effort to make a fast buck. The play highlights the bands rough neighbourhood with their loose mob ties a prevalent theme beneath their later glitzy, showbiz exterior.
The play really gathers place when Frankie encounters Bob Gaudio (Declan Egan0. A keyboardist and wordsmith, who quickly becomes the band’s principal songwriter.
Gaudio writes a string of Number One hits which catapults the band to superstardom. Towards the end of Act One, we enjoy a red-jacketed medley of Sherry / Big Girls Don’t Cry / Walk Like a Man as the band enter their imperial phase.
During the musical numbers the band deliver with gusto; Watson capturing Valli’s astonishing vocal range whilst the rest nail those trademark doo woop harmonies. There’s also some fine musicianship from the rest of the ensemble.
The show is laden with the band’s biggest hits – ‘Beggin’’, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, ‘Earth Angel’ and of course, ‘December 1963 (Oh What A Night)’ .
Act two follows the band through more chart and touring success, though the strains of financial troubles, touring excess, mob ties and personal tragedy threaten to pull them apart.
All of this can’t stop the band from reuniting at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in a poignant, crowd-raising finale.
Apologies to any of those who heard my falsettos on the way back along Grey Street!
Jersey Boys plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday 11th August. Tickets are available from their website www.theatreroyal.co.uk