If you haven’t already guessed through the title, I am indeed referring to the Four Seasons hit ‘December 1963 (Oh what a night). Last night I went to my local theatre to watch the UK tour of Jersey Boys. The singing was flawless, the set was fascinating and aside from the group of women in the balcony, singing (screeching) along through the first act, it was a brilliant evening.
Through no fault of the actors, the first twenty, or so, minutes were a blur. The script, to begin with, was sluggish and as an audience member I wasn’t fully aware of what was actually happening. First on stage was an African-American man in 21st century gangster gear, rapping the lyrics of Oh what a night. This left me totally perplexed and, in my eyes, had very little relevance to the production. Maybe he was an intruder? Although, I shall admit, his number was stunningly choreographed. Unfortunately, the actor seemed to take himself a tad too seriously when, as a rather enthusiastic audience, we gave him and his number a rather unenthusiastic applause. He was not best pleased.
But, fear not! The show picked up and with style! It was inevitable that most of the audience would enjoy the evening more when they heard songs that they knew. And, as the story is chronological in their lives, the biggest hits came just before the interval; at around quarter past nine. Numbers such as Sherry, Big girls don’t cry and Oh what a night gained rapturous amounts of applause; the singing and choreography for these numbers was very impressive.
As we got to the nitty-gritty story line, with Tommy and his money problems, the script became more lucid and the acting was able to flourish. Both Tommy and Frankie’s moments were charming to watch as we saw very candid performances from the both. When Tommy, the back-bone of the group, begins to crumble under the pressure of paying back the money he owes his prodigy (Frankie), unwillingly says that he and the rest of the group will pay Tommy’s debt back. This moment was acted with quality and really plucked at the old heart strings.
Frankie Valli, played by Tim Driesen was outstanding. I found it remarkable how someone could have such a voice and then do the same show all over again, for a month; sometimes two performances a day. Phenomenal! The second act barely saw Tim come off stage for a breath. He carried the show fantastically and made the production very special and unique. The performance of the evening goes to Tim in my opinion. He blew me away with his amazing four octave range and had me on the edge of my seat, for several moments in the show. My favourite scene of his, which had me both on the edge of my chair and tearing up, was toward the end of Act two when he received a phone call, telling him his daughter had died from drug abuse, at just twenty-two. His reaction was heart-wrenchingly believable and credit needs to be made appropriately to Tim for bringing the character, the enigma of Frankie Valli to life. Vocally the performance of the evening was Can’t take my eyes off you. It being my favourite song by the Four Seasons it was only going to confirm why I love it so much – or ruin it completely.
Splendid performances were given by Sam Ferriday, playing Bob Gaudio and Lewis Griffiths, playing Nick Massi who added to the group, creating the quintessential and polished quartet that were the Four Seasons. Sam had chance to show off his lovely full vocal range when confidently beginning the song Can’t take my eyes off you with high notes that seemed stupidly comfortable in his range; it’s always hard to watch somebody hit notes that really shouldn’t come out of their mouths. Sam certainly gave Tim (Frankie) a run for his money! Lewis, completing the quartet as that unforgettable sounding Bass line to each song, also showed us that hitting the lowest of notes came with complete ease to him. His voice was rich and coherent and he continued that low rasp in his speaking voice also, which added to his macho, cool and collected aura he wore – triumphantly – about the stage. Together as a four the harmonies were annoyingly precise and sweet sounding. They bounced off one another on the stage, reflecting a very credible friendship between them all which made it all the more endearing and pleasant to watch.
The show is in Cardiff for another week at least and has several other destinations around the UK before completing the tour. If you don’t manage to see it in your nearest city you can still catch it on the West End in London. It’s incredibly truthful and honest yet funny, with copious amounts of standout, one off characters who bring such hilarity to a cautiously darkening story line. I would highly recommend you see the show; and to take as many people as you can with you! However, with quite a few naughty words a few hilariously placed innuendo’s, it’s not one for the kids. (If they aren’t old enough to blow their own nose and wipe their own bum then give it a miss; send them to Nanny’s for the night).