By far the best musical I have ever seen is the West End version of ‘Jersey Boys’ (now a film directed by Clint Eastwood), telling the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
The group rose from playing white doo-wop in the mob-controlled nightspots of New Jersey to the glittering heights of international stardom.
But running it close is New Jersey Nights, a ‘jukebox musical’ of the group’s hits, currently making a welcome return tour from the USA.
What makes this show stand out from the numerous Four Seasons tribute bands, apart from the first class singing, is the spectacular presentation.
The four vocalists (Duncan Heather, Kris Manuel, William Hazell & Simon Schofield) were backed by a four-piece band, comprising drums, saxophone, keyboards and guitar, playing on a platform above the stage.
Three male and three female dancers gyrated energetically throughout against a background of three changing sets, representing a New Jersey bar, a New York recording studio (with a Tony Hancock album cover on the wall!) and, finally, a glittering silver stage.
The three girl dancers (Jamie Anerson, Bethany Dows & Charlotte Scally) even had a solo spot of their own in a tribute to Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’, singing The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’ and The Crystals’ ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’, a number better known locally as the Southport FC theme song.
The two 45-minute halves of the show managed to fit in a good selection of The Four Seasons hits. Their full catalogue might have warranted an all-nighter.
In the United States, they sold more records than their West Coast rivals The Beach Boys, but in Britain, many of their hits like ‘Bye Bye Baby’, ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ were sadly victims of cover versions.
Included in the set were two Frankie Valli solo hits, ‘My Eyes Adored You’ and ‘Fallen Angel’ plus accapella versions of ‘Silence is Golden’ and ‘Blue Moon’, the latter performed as a comedy number.
The Four Seasons were not noted for writing their own material, most of it came from Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, but I find the songs they recorded more entertaining than The Beatles and, judging by the standing ovation at the end, everyone enjoyed themselves too. Can anyone say more than that?
A great show. Don’t miss it. It’s on until August 16.
BY RON ELLIS