Review: Jersey Boys at Leeds Grand Theatre

OH What a Night! That is the only way to start describing this musical featuring the songs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The music is by Bob Gaudio (a member of the original group), lyrics by Bob Crewe, and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. It is presented in a documentary-style format that dramatizes the formation, success and eventual break-up of the 1960s rock ‘n’ roll group The Four Seasons and features virtually all of their memorable hits.

The Four Seasons were originally known as The Four Lovers and evolved into the Four Seasons, with Frankie Valli as the lead singer, Bob Gaudio (formerly of the Royal Teens) on keyboards and tenor vocals, Tommy DeVito on lead guitar and baritone vocals, and Nick Massi on electric bass and bass vocals. They had three consecutive number one singles in the USA in 1962, Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man and then over the next decade had a further twenty-one top forty singles including five in the top ten and their fourth number one, Rag Doll. Later in the 70s they had further top ten singles including Who Loves You which reached number three and December 1963 (Oh, What a Night) which again reached the number one spot.

The vocals during the show were superb with some brilliant harmonies from Michael Watson as Frankie, Peter Nash as Tommy, James Winter as Bob and Karl James Wilson as Nick. So much like the original group it was uncanny. A special mention must be given to the quality of Michael Watson’s voice – he really hits the high notes in his recreation of Frankie Valli’s unique falsetto voice. The show tells the story of the how these four Jersey boys came together to form one of the most successful groups of their generation. Their journey was not an easy one, peppered with time spent in prison, broken hearts, loss and grief, but the four main stars guided us very succinctly through their story, providing humour, emotion and, of course, the brilliant music and choreography along the way.

Finally, I must mention the orchestra under the direction of Francis Goodhand whose replication of these fantastic tunes could not be faulted. A great night enjoyed by a capacity audience at the Leeds Grand Theatre which is celebrating its 140th anniversary at the moment. Surely, over these last 140 years there haven’t been many better performances than this.

by John Burland