Jersey Boys – the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – pulls into Leeds Grand Theatre this week to coincide with the opera house’s 140th birthday celebrations.
Following a sixties-inspired programme including Cilla The Musical and Motown The Musical, Jersey Boys provides another uplifting excursion into the mid-century pop revolution, retold through a hefty catalogue of memorable chart-topping numbers.
The show features all the band’s greatest hits, including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, and My Eyes Adored You. Bob Gaudio’s expansive yet radio-friendly compositions transfer with pomp and force into muscular musical arrangements from Ron Melrose, harnessing a soundscape which encompasses brass, bass, guitars and striking synthesiser phrases.
Key to the show’s success is Michael Watson’s central performance as Valli, capturing the man’s unique vocal range with a showstopping falsetto that’s sure to leave ears ringing. James Winter also hands over a memorable vocal as Gaudio, complimenting soaring harmonies from Peter Nash and Karl James Wilson.
The risk with any musical inspired by iconic hits is that the drama assumes a junior role to the music, leaving audiences eager for the action to move on to the next tune. Fortunately, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s script ensures that scenes drive forward with purpose – they don’t just link musical numbers – and the New Jersey dialogue sparkles with charisma. In a scene-stealing performance, Joel Elferink delivers some high-camp levity as lyricist Bob Crewe, whilst James Gibbs faces the challenge of playing the real-life Joe Pesci. For these reasons, Jersey Boys never feels like a jukebox musical and succeeds as a legitimate theatrical work.
The production also offers some striking visuals, with designs inspired by the harsh industrial architecture of New Jersey bridges and subways. These are simple details which bring an evocative landscape to stage – further harnessed by projections and some abstract lighting design from Howell Binkley.
Jersey Boys is a musical almost perfect in concept and execution. A trove of over thirty hit numbers are brilliantly upscaled for theatre, setting a real benchmark in contemporary orchestral arrangement. Energetic direction, evocative choreography and striking performances all come together to offer a bold and rhapsodic musical which your ears, and eyes, will adore.
Cast: Michael Watson, Peter Nash, James Winter, Karl James Wilson, Joel Elferink, Mark Heenehan, James Gibbs, Arnold Mabhena, Dan O’Brien, Joe Maxwell, Tara Young, Amy Thiroff, Olive Robinson. Director: Des McAnuff Writers: Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice Theatre: Leeds Grand Theatre Running time: 150 minutes Dates: Tuesday 20th November to Saturday 1st December 2018.