jersey boys 2021 tour

Pictures: Birgit + Ralf Brinkhoff

Jersey Boys

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


If you want an alternative to Panto this Christmas then you can't do much better than this, one of, if not the best jukebox musical around.

In fact the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is one of the few jukebox offerings that could exist as a serious play even if you never heard a note of music.

Press night even had a drama of its own when Michael Pickering, playing Frankie Valli, who seemed to be showing signs of a cold, was unable to continue past the interval, so enter Luke Suri who is making his theatrical debut in the show after touring the world as a singer on cruise ships.

And what a night - a star was born. Luke was quite brilliant. He can sing, looked the part, has all the moves and for that one act, he was Frankie Valli - just remember the name.

We open with the band members of whatever the band was called at the time passing through New Jersey's finest houses of correction on a regular basis as a way of life.

It was to make them interesting enough for an award laden musical and film later, but then . . .

While other groups at the time in the 1950s and 60s tried to portray a sort of rebellious, tough, streetwise image, they were still squeaky clean, not a hint of scandal, the record company publicity machines saw to that.

The Four Seasons, who in the early days changed their name as often as most people changed their socks, were the opposite, with their prison records they hardly portrayed the clean-cut, all-American boy image pop bosses wanted, and, if that was not enough baggage, they had links to mafia bosses.

Not your normal, rags to riches, we were unknown, got a break and now we are famous jukebox fare. This is real drama, a real story with twists and turns aplenty. 

Jersey boys Alex 2021 tour

Michael Pickering as Frankie Valli, Blair Gibson as Bob Gaudio, Dalton Wood as Tommy Devito and  Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi

Apart from their early dalliances with the law, Tommy DeVito, played with all the posturing and bravado of the small time, street-wise would be gangster by Dalton Wood, had a record, a real long player of one, for breaking and entering, or B&Es in New Jersey parlance, handling stolen goods and the rest.

He did favours for the local crime boss Gyp DeCarlo, (Jordan James) who helped him out when needed, and, who took a shine to the young Frankie Valli, which was to be telling later when Tommy's gambling debts and unpaid bills hit astronomical levels. Only the fame of the band, the Jersey group being heroes in their home state, had kept Tommy's limbs and ribs intact.

In the background was bass player Nick Massie, played with a deep rich voice by Lewis Griffiths, a thinker and a drinker, who was forever thinking of starting his own band - he never did - and just decided to quit and go home as the band were reaching their Zenith.

Then there was Bob Gaudio, played by Blair Gibson, who was, well, normal. He didn't drink to excess (Nick), or gamble out of control (Tommy), or chase every woman in sight (Nick and Tommy). He just wrote songs, hit songs, and played keyboard, preferring that to being on stage. A reluctant performer who stepped out of the limelight as soon as he could.

And Valli? He was a family man at heart, marrying Mary Delgado, (Emma Crossley) and having three daughters, who he hardly saw with constant touring keeping him away from home most of the time and straining his marriage to breaking point. Two more marriages and three sons were to follow, but even the home life he craved was to bring its own heartbrache into his life.

The band were on the up, slowly, painfully so, but working, on tour, small venues albeit, playing, in Tommy’s words, the places you fly over on the way to LA.

Gaudio’s arrival was to change all that. Here was a genuine talent, a man who could not only write, but write a new genre of pop – introduced to the then three piece by a certain Joe Pesci (George Salmon) – yes, that Joe Pesci, who was then a skinny kid hanging around the neighbourhood bad boy Tommy.

Even then the road to success was not easy with periods of working as session singers for producer Bob Crewe, a wonderfully affected performance from Michael Levi, and struggling to get songs recorded, including their worldwide hit Can’t take my eyes off you.

But this is a show full of hits – Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, Oh, What a Night, My Eyes Adored You, Rag Doll and on and on. Songs everyone knows, hits a plenty, an estimated 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the bestselling groups of all time, but, although their music is well known they never really took the UK by storm, only managing one No 1, back in February, 1976, with December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night), and eight top ten hits in a singles career that ran from 1953 to 1997.

In that time we saw break ups, tensions and changes of personnel and allegiances cleverly chronicled in four parts, spring, summer, autumn, winter, each narrated by one of the group, four perspectives of one story. We see the alliance of Gaudio and Valli which was to make him the front man - Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the enforced retirement of drowning in debt Tommy, the walkout of Nick, who just wanted to go home, all in an unfolding ever changing story.

The set (Klara Zieglerova) is inventive, as hard, bleak and industrial as the show’s New Jersey roots, and brilliantly flexible to help set a cracking pace while the six piece orchestra, under musical director Griff Johnson, boosted by multi-talented cast members sets the music alight in the hands of our Four Seasons on stage.

The strange thing is that this show has probably brought the group more fame and adulation than the real Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons ever managed and why not.

It is a colourful story from New Jersey jails, via Mafia, to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999), full of memorable music, (Bob Gaudio, lyrics Bob Crewe) Valli’s distinctive falsetto voice and, simply, what a story and what a night of wonderful entertainment. To 01-01-22.

Roger Clarke


DeVito left the group, an offer he couldn’t refuse from the people he had owed money to, becoming a foot soldier in Las Vegas where he died last year, aged 92, after contracting Covid-19.

Massie died of cancer in his beloved New Jersey aged 72 on Christmas Eve, 2000, while Gaudio, the baby of the group, aged 79 is still writing and still co-owns the Four Seasons brand with Valli – a contract written in a handshake.

And Valli? Almost 70 years on from his first hit in 1953, Valli, Francesco Stephen Castelluccio, now 87, released, A Touch of Jazz, his first studio album in five years, in June this year and, he is still touring with the umpteenth line up of the Four Seasons – arriving in Birmingham next June! 

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