jersey four

Picture: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg  

Jersey boys

Wolverhampton Grand 


Four young men, four stories, four decades and four seasons. Charting the rise from sort-of mobster, blue collar workers to rock and roll hall of famers, Jersey Boys is a toe tapping, hip swinging, nostalgia fest that also manages to tell a story of betrayal, tragedy, family and love with real grit and a sense of style unique to the unforgettable characters at the heart of its story.

Setting the scene and introducing us to the origins of the Four Seasons is Dalton Wood, as the man who discovered Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito.

Commanding the stage with a charmingly confident performance, Woods’ DeVito is a heck of a narrator (albeit an unreliable one) setting the tone for a fast paced first act that is as colourful as his character.

Each Jersey Boy, Michael Pickering (Frankie Valli) Blair Gibson (Bob Gaudio) and understudy Dan O’Brien (Nick Massi) get the chance to narrate their own version of events and there is not a weak link in the chain amongst them.

In fact, it felt really exciting to see four strong central male performances at the heart of the story. And it’s clear that they are all having a ball doing it. 

Not forgetting the ensemble support from the ladies in the cast who keep the energy high and the pace slick with so many multi roles and costume changes I was genuinely surprised to learn there were only 4 of them.

 Emma Crossley as Mary Delgado in particular packs an emotional punch as Frankie’s long suffering first wife.

The direction by Des McAnuff combined with scenic design by Klara Zieglerova serves the storytelling well. Remembering that the action takes place over literal decades, it would have been easy to dress the set-in period typical fashions but the stripped back empty warehouse design was perfect for keeping the focus where it should be, on the characters and the music.

The clever use of projection to replicate the look of a live 60’s television broadcast was exciting to watch and added to that feeling of nostalgia laced throughout the whole production.

Book writer Rick Elice says that when writing the show, he and co-writer Marshall Brickman never considered they were writing a musical but instead a “play about four guys who write music” which possibly is what elevates Jersey Boys above other Jukebox musicals.

Rather than having to write a story to fit the songs, the songs were carefully selected to reflect the characters' real-life highs and lows and there are several moments when Jersey Boys absolutely nails this.

I have to confess to knowing next to nothing about the Four Seasons and only a little of their music, but even I could admit that thanks to musical supervision by Ron Melrose, all of the songs sounded fantastic. The moment in Act 1, when the central quartet finally came together to sing was like pure magic. And it made us as an audience excited for what was to come.

Frankie Valli once said that he thought everyone could sing like him . . . no not everyone, but Michael Pickering certainly can. The role of Valli is a vocally demanding and never once does his extraordinary voice falter. Blair Gibson also gives stunning vocals as song writing prodigy Gaudio.

But as mentioned earlier the real magic really is when the central four sing together, the blend of their voices combined with the classic songs makes it easy to see why the Four Seasons became such a huge success and why we enjoy reliving their story over and over again as Jersey Boys has continued to play to packed audiences since 2004. And I’m sure its run at the Wolverhampton Grand, until Saturday 18th March will continue to equally entertain and delight.

Janine Henderson


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