Oh so many years ago now, in 1951 to be precise , a young Francesco Stephen Castelluccio, or Frankie Valli as we came to know him, was a 16-year-old Italian boy, looking for a way to break out of life in Newark, New Jersey.
Eventually, Frankie meets Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi and when Bob Gaudio hopped on board the magic that is the Four Seasons was born.
It’s fair to say that the story of Frankie and the Four Seasons is a turbulent one, filled with friendship, heartache and stereotypical Italian humour. But at the core of the story, and one that is told brilliantly in JERSEY BOYS, are some of the greatest pop songs of the last 50 years.
The show is at the Swansea Arena this week and we were there last night to see the cast rattle through hit after hit, in the perfect venue for a show like this, which feels as much like a concert as it does musical theatre production.
Jersey Boys has been around for 17 years now, in fact this month is the anniversary of it’s opening on Broadway. From the very start audience, and critics, went wild for the production with the show collecting a host of major awards along the way (21 to be precise), including the Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award for Best Musical
The reason is a simple one, the story is dramatic, the cast are always superb, and the songs of Frankie and the Four Seasons are timeless classics.
As if you need any proof, here’s what last nights audience at Swansea Arena thought……..
If you’ve seen the show before, this tour may look slightly different and a little ‘downsized’, but the story and performances remain as slick and breathtaking as ever.
This is a jukebox musical at its very best, covering most of the 25 plus hits they’ve had over the years, beginning with the unforgettable ‘Sherry‘ right through to their trip into disco with ‘December 63 – Oh What a Night‘.
Although the band flipped between The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli and…. Jersey Boys is very much the story of all four members and the part they each played in the bands incredible success. The show itself is cleverly told in seasons, with each member taking a period of time to tell their tale.
Some of the songs highlight troubled times in the bands life. Frankie (RYAN HEENAN) for example, sings ‘My Eyes Adored You’ when he was going through a difficult divorce from his then wife Mary Delgado (EMMA CROSSLEY). The show also doesn’t shy away from Frankie’s troubled daughter’s tragedy.
Ryan has mastered Mr Valli’s trademark falsetto superbly and you can tell he is loving the songs, and dance routines, which were around long before he was born. You can watch our interview with Ryan HERE.
The rest of the Seasons are terrific too. BLAIR GIBSON plays Bob Gaudio, CHRISTOPHER SHORT is Nick Massi and DALTON WOOD is Tommy Devito. You can meet the entire cast and company, and find out more about the tour HERE.
Of course this is the Seasons story, but with a fantastic ensemble and first rate band under the direction of GRIFF JOHNSON, you will leave the Arena desperate to get in the car and play your favour Seasons song – I did.
KLARA ZIEGLEROVA has created a very industrial set of scaffolding which cleverly frames parts of the show and back projection. It does feel very 50s/60s. The use of live cameras, video projection and some real footage from the time, the show really does capture the period.
The story by RICK ELISE and MARSHALL BRICKMAN is cleverly pulled together with both humour and heart, but never shys away from those moments which almost ruined the four guys and their families.
It is however, the music and lyrics of Gaudio and Crewe we see this show for. Each song feels fresh and new and yet retains all the elements which made them international hits back in the day. The four guys carry them off with great charm and enthusiasm, and have those ‘Walk Like a Man‘ style dance routines off to a tee. I must mention Ryan’s voice again though. That falsetto isn’t easy but he carries it off really well.
At this point I was going to list the countless hits featured in the show but actually, the joy of watching it is nudging the person next to you and whispering ‘I didn’t know they did this one‘. I can tell you there’ll be a lot of nudging going on, there’s a lot of them.
Incidentally, the Seasons weren’t always knows as that, originally they were The Four Lovers (thank heavens they changed). In 1960, they failed an audition for a lounge at a New Jersey bowling alley. They may have come away with no work, but according to Bob Gaudio they left with something which was to change all their lives.
“We figured we’ll come out of this with something. So we took the name of the bowling alley. It was called the Four Seasons.”
JERSEY BOYS is packed with hit after hit in a first class production at the Swansea Arena through to Saturday 3rd December. Tickets start from £13 and you can get yours HERE.
They ‘Boys’ are then back at the Wales Millennium Centre in 2023 from the 11th to 22nd April. Performances are at 7:30pm each evening with 2:30pm matinee shows on the first Wednesday, and then each Thursday and Saturday. For more details and tickets, go HERE.
Just be aware that the show is a real story, set on the streets of New Jersey, so the language may not be suitable for younger audiences – parental guidance advised.