LtoR Blair Gibson, Dalton Wood, Michael Pickering, Lewis Griffiths in Jersey Boys UK & Ireland Tour, credit Birgit & Ralf Brinkhoff
Venue: The Alexandra, Birmingham
Performance date: 09 December 2021
Reviewer: Ely King
Star rating: ★★★★1/2
There are very few people who haven’t heard of the Jersey Boys or Frankie Valli, but how many people know the real backstory of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons? From the Mob to Joe Pesci, and everything between, Jersey Boys covers the formation of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and the many name variations preceding that.
Jersey Boys promises to be an exceptional night, with wall-to-wall smash hits helping to orchestrate and illustrate the life of young Frankie Valli and his rise to fame. If you’re looking into an in-depth story into the life of The Four Seasons, however, you’re at the wrong show. Whilst there are sections of narration from each of the quad, the music runs the show, which is a welcome change. With Jersey Boys, you don’t need to know their life stories, or some complex background information, you can just sit in your seat with a beverage of choice and get transported into their world of music and mob bosses.
The main men are cast exceptionally well. Michael Pickering as the incomparable Frankie Valli, Lewis Griffiths as the hilarious Nick Massi, Blair Gibson as the exceptional Bob Gaudio, and Dalton Wood as the devilishly handsome Tommy DeVito. Each member of the group has their own moments to shine, with sharp wit and one-liners.
Pickering is an exceptional Valli, he embodies a real childhood innocence combined with an unwavering yearning to please. Pickering’s voice is something to behold, being able to embody the frontman almost perfectly. At some points, it did sound a tad strained. It soon made sense when understudy Luke Suri was required to step in for Act Two, with Pickering unable to continue. Given the fact that Pickering was unwell, it makes his Act One just that much more impressive. Hitting those notes when not 100% is truly mind-blowing.
Whether it was the lack of illness or the excitement of being thrown on last-minute, Luke Suri burst onto that stage with unmatched energy, showing off his singing (and dancing) talent perfectly, but also showing the suave swagger that you expect from a thriving frontman. Suri slotted straight into the role as if he had been there all night and is a joy to watch and a force to be reckoned with.
After the introductory ‘Big Man in Town’ Suri was visibly emotional, spurring the audience to cheer louder and for longer – this extended applause served as almost approval from the audience to their new Frankie.
Apart from the main four men, there is one other actor who stands out and that is Damien Winchester as Barry. Though Winchester is not on stage for a large amount of time, whenever he is, he is either giving witty commentary or effortlessly serving the most impressive vocals.
The wardrobe department nails every costume. The team ensures that every single era and timeframe is referenced accurately, with such subtle nuances like the placement of the waistline on a dress or the fitting of the men’s shirts. When talking about wardrobe, the iconic suits cannot be ignored. Though on every advert you see the dazzling red suits, there are many more outfits throughout the show that are equally amazing. The group flit between the standard tux and the red suits as expected, but also scatter in a glitzy bronze number and a dazzling diamanté lapel tux at different points in the show. You can tell exactly where they are in their career by the outfit, which is an extremely clever decision and helps the flow of the narrative.
The set itself is skeletal, with a mainframe used from beginning to end and tables/mics transferred to and from the system, with a pulley system to help transform the set from scene to scene. This pulley or automated system worked very well for this production, having the cast or crew physically move the set would not have worked in this setting.
One highlight of the show is seeing Damien Winchester glide onto the stage in a wheeled office chair, at speed, and attempt to stop himself before slamming into the desk. It’s the perfect insert of comedic relief between talks of mobs and (fake) murder.
If you think you don’t recognise the name Frankie Valli, you will recognise his music. Jersey Boys is a timeless classic and is a must-see for all. The show has taken up a 3-week residency at The Alexandra over the festive period. If you fancy an alternative to panto, then this show is just the tonic.
C’mon, see it, we’re Beggin’.
Runs until: 1 January 2022 and on tour