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Review: Jersey Boys at Sunderland Empire

Oh What A Night!

Jersey Boys
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 19th September 2015

Jersey Boys has been seen by over 22 million people worldwide and is firmly established as one of London's longest running and most popular shows. Packed full of great hits such as Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man the show quickly gets a reaction from the audience.

Darlington-born Matt Corner plays the role of Frankie Valli in the ongoing UK and Ireland tour of Tony, Olivier and Grammy Award-winning Best Musical Jersey Boys. He is simply stunning and is perfect for the role. In particular, his rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You will live long in the memory.

Supporting Matt are Sam Ferriday as capable Bob Gaudio and Lewis Griffiths providing the bass notes and laughs as Nick Massi. Henry Davis completed the line up with the challenging role of band leader Tommy DeVito. Tommy often had to narrate the story in the first half as well as sing and Henry performed the role wonderfully.

Photo: Helen Maybanks
The Four Seasons came from challenging backgrounds in New Jersey, USA. They were not strangers to prison and between them they had a long list of petty crimes. Jersey Boys takes the audience through the early years with its line up and name changes before they settled on the name after staying at a Four Seasons hotel.

The pace, under Des McAnuff’s direction is frantic in the first half. The story quickly develops punctuated with the rich back catalogue of music. Occasionally the story is similar to the The Doors movie as the band appear to instantly write hits.

It cannot be denied that the songs are a real backbone of this show and the band under musical director Gareth Weedon add a solid pulse to the performance. In particular drummer Stuart Roberts never misses a beat as his drum riser is shunted around the stage.

The lighting design was well planned and helped the flow of the show. Clever touches include the feed from the cameras to the big screen during the tv sequences.

Photo: Helen Maybanks
The story includes the high points and low points of life on the road. This include the frustrations of sharing a room with someone for 10 years who does not change their underwear and insists on using every towel in the hotel room. The second half was sublime as the story reflected the challenges of maintaining a home family and a tour family.

A strong supporting cast performs the many roles of the other characters as the story develops. In particular Damian Buhagiar as a young Joe Pesci has comic timing and Mark Heenahan as the man who can fix it, Gyp DeCarlo, has suitable presence for his role.

But it is those classic tunes and fabulous performances that create a memorable night’s entertainment.  Matt Corner is dynamite as Valli. 

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

May be inappropriate for ages 12 and under due to strong language. Jersey Boys contains authentic New Jersey language.

Tickets available in person at Sunderland Empire Box Office, by calling 0844 871 3022* or by booking online at* plus a transaction fee applies. 

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