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REVIEW: Jersey Boys at Newcastle Theatre Royal

 Jersey Boys

Newcastle Theatre Royal

Until Saturday 10 September 2022

Jersey Boys the musical is popular for two reasons, a great true story and a fabulous set of songs, written for Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons by its keyboard player Bob Gaudio, who rightly takes the credit for writing the music in this production. Chuck in a talented cast and high production values and it is easy to see why the show fills houses around the world.

The first time I saw the show was back in  2015. Back then I found myself going “I didn’t realise that this song is one of theirs” quite a bit. Indeed the show begins by pointing out that their hits still top the charts in this century.  In the seven years since I saw the show my memory had played tricks on me and I found myself feeling that this was a different show. Checking the original review suggests otherwise. Funny how memory plays tricks!

The show is split into four parts - four seasons - each with a different member of the band taking on the role of narrator. FIrst up, naturally, is spring, narrated by the band’s founder Tommy DeVito (Dalton Wood). The group were originally performing as a trio with his brother Nick DeVito and Nick Massi (Norton James) practicing their harmonies under street lights. Tommy discovers Frankie Castelluccio (initially performed by Michael Pickering) and Tommy sets about developing the raw talent. Frankie also changes his name to Valli.

Fellow Jersey lad Joey Pesci (George Salmon) - yes the actor - introduces Tommy to the song writer and keyboard player Bob Gaudio (Blair Gibson) who takes over narration as the show enters Summer. Just like the Doors movie, the show hits the fast forward button and gives the impression that the songs were created in an instant. The quality of the songs leads a record deal being picked up, thanks to producer Bob Crewe (Dougie Carter), and the band has success with a string of massive hits.

At this point on press night the show suddenly and unexpectedly stopped, it had “gone tech”. My companion had clocked a wobble in one of the voices in the previous scene and wondered if we had a problem - sure enough as the show restarted an announcement was made that the role of Frankie was performed by George Salmon (who had looked after the role during that days matinee). Reproducing Valli’s powerful lead falsetto voice is a challenge in itself and it is a positive thing that the show doesn’t take risks with its cast. Anyhow…George carried on in the role and between them Michael and George did a cracking job on this pivotal role.

Act two is Autumn and the band’s bassist Nick Massi takes over the narration as the wheels start to come off with the band. As can be the case with musical groups - the hits still keep coming but the internal friction starts to come ahead. Nick has the audience laughing by pointing out the trauma of room sharing with Tommy - someone who uses every towel in the room and treats the space as if it is just for him. Tommy has also created a large debt with the taxman and others. 

Frankie narrates the final winter section and the band goes through line up changes and rectifying the issues presented in the Autumn section. They also get recognition for their contribution to the American music industry.

As the show proceeds the audience is able to enjoy hit after hit, after all they had 29 top-40 hits to choose from. Oh What A Night, Walk Like A Man, Rag Doll and others go down really well with the Theatre Royal crowd.

Some of the musicians, under the musical direction of Griff Johnson, are tucked away out of sight some of the time whilst drummer Tom Hutchinson is shunted around the stage on his riser. The musicians, like the singers, are tight and do the source material a great service.

As the show is tightly directed by Des McAnuff, and the choreography from Sergio Tulillo is slick, it is easy to miss how well crafted the show is. Likewise the design of the show (lighting, set,costume and sound) are features that are easy to take for granted and a lots of thought has gone into making this show work as well as it does.

Regular readers will now be ready for the “but” and here it comes… and it is not the fault of the show. Indeed the front of house, including the toilets were full of notices about it, but… a show like this attracts the amatuer choirs. Groups and individuals who think that, rather than pay good money to hear trained professionals at the top of their game, the audience need to be subjected to their off-key performances. We had a group to our right and one immediately behind us. To add salt to the wounds, they even discussed plot points loudly in between the songs so it was difficult to hear the exposition at times. Has this behaviour got worse since the pandemic (a long period in which everyone was only watching stuff at home) or is it us?

In response to those complaining behind us, the show “may be inappropriate for ages 12 and under due to strong language. Jersey Boys contains authentic New Jersey language.” In other words, working class New Jersey lads swear a bit.

Jersey Boys is a well crafted show with a talented ensemble cast of singers, musicians and dancers who make the most out of a rich back catalogue. It is understandable to see why tickets have sold so well on a two week run which comes so close to recent visits to our region.

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg


Jersey Boys plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tuesday 30 August – Saturday 10 September 2022. Tickets are priced from £24.00 and can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

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