Jersey Boys Returns To Birmingham In Style

It lays a claim to being the greatest musical of them all, and last night it started it’s UK tour with a press night at the New Alexandra Theatre in serious style. Jersey Boys, the story of the Four Seasons, is the musical that has it all – instantly recognisable songs, strong performances, and a story that is so incredible in its highs and lows it could almost be a work of fiction. The fact that it is all true makes this truly special – potent theatrical magic that is simply mesmorising.

jerseyboys-sq

The story of Frankie Valli and the original Four Seasons is the stuff of legends. When Tommy DeVito hears Frankie Castelluccio (Valli) sing, he knows that his amazing falsetto voice could be the key to stardom for his band. But run ins with the law, numerous line up changes and a set list based on cover versions of standards all hinder their rise to any sort of fame. It is only when former teenage one hit wonder (‘He wears short shorts’) and songwriter Bob Gaudio joins the group that they hit on the magic formula of pop hits that will lead to super stardom. However, Tommy’s debts and dodgy dealings catch up with the Four Seasons at the height of their fame, leaving the band in pieces and Frankie to go it alone, with Bob as songwriter behind the scenes. But the brilliant pop they create at their height means they are destined for an appearance in musics Hall of Fame, a legendary group with an incredible back story and back catalogue.

Photos by Brinkhoff Mögenburg

Frankie is played by Michael Watson. He delivers a faultless performance, with his wonderful falsetto voice a great match for those faultless songs, particular in the sublime rendition of ‘Can’t take my eyes off You’. He also shows great acting talent too, showing how Frankie grows from a gauche teenager to a man in charge of his own destiny, you really feel his heartbreak over his marriage and loss of his daughter. Simon Bailey is  fabulous as Tommy, playing the role as a brutal, bullish bully who is never quite as in control of ‘his’ band as he thinks. He has many of the best one liners in the show, and he delivers them in perfect, New Jersey wisecracking style. Tommy is his own worst enemy, but it is hard not to like him, and his interactions with a young Joe Pesci are a hoot.

Declan Egan is also perfect in the role of Bob Gaudio, playing the former teen protegee as the voice of reason, wise beyond his years, but also with a sense of fun, especially during the ‘Oh what a night’ scene midway through the first half. Rounding out the trio is Nick Massi, once again played as a man of few words by Lewis Griffiths. He describes himself as the Ringo of the group, and has one of the funniest scenes when he describes what it has been like to share a room for 10 years with Tommy De Vito. This is the most expression he exhibits during a brilliant, poker faced performance. Lewis is the quiet hero of the piece and I love the way he plays the role, a cool and laconic star.

Left to right: Declan Egan, Michael Watson, Simon Bailey, Lewis Griffiths
by Brinkhoff Mögenburg

The musical harmonies in those classic songs are spine-tingling  and brilliant, with the trio of Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk like a man a definite high point. But there are so many other brilliant songs, from the poignant ‘My eyes adored you’, to the angriness of ‘Beggin’, the urgency of ‘Let’s hang on’ to the triumphant comeback single ‘Who loves you’, that in any other musical, every song could be a high point.

So much more than a jukebox musical, Jersey Boys is brutal and brilliant, shocking and funny, with the most wonderful soundtrack around.Jersey Boys is the must see show in Birmingham this Christmas

Jersey Boys New Alexandra Theatre

Until 6th January 2018. Click here for ticket information.

New Year New You – Start with some classic films.

unspecified

 

January is such a dark, drab and depressing month. Money is often in short supply after the excess of Christmas, days are short, nights are dark, and sometimes, going out in the evening is something best avoided. In short, January is the perfect time to discover some classic films, and movie musicals offer the perfect ‘pick me up’ way to avoid those Winter Blues.

I love a good movie musical, the sort of film that always has a happy ending, is full of singalong moments, and has characters that you are willing to succeed and find their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I have so many musical favourites, but I am going to share a few of them with you, along with one that I haven’t seen yet, but have added to my watch list for 2017.

Rock of Ages

This is one of those occasions where the movie is better than the stage musical version. With a score of unforgettable 80s rock classics and Julianne Hough as a likeable leading lady, and Catherine Zeta Jones in a totally unexpected role, Rock of Ages is fabulous, spandex rocking, fright wig wearing, bad taste fun. I love it!

917xMcBwhAL._SY500_

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Exactly what it says on the packet, and best avoided if you are looking for a feminist movie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a 1950s treat. Seven Brothers, led by Howard Keel, decide the time has come to take a wife, and so kidnap seven brides, including Jane Powell. This is the most exuberant of all musicals, with incredible dance sequences that still take the breathe away. A classic.

seven

High Society

Another in my list of all time favourite musicals, High Society is the musical version of The Philedelphia Story, starring an exquisitely beautiful Grace Kelly as spoilt heiress Tracy Lord, engaged to be married to a new beau, but possibly still carrying a torch for her ex husband Bing Crosby. The songs in this one, including the dreamy ‘True Love’ and the sparkling Cole Porter number ‘Well, did you Evah’ are sublime, and the whole spectacle is just beautiful.

high

Singin’ in the Rain

Probably the best musical of all time, and ranking highly in lists of the greatest films of all time too, Singin’ in the Rain is a bonafide masterpiece. Telling the story of the start of the talkie movies, it has it all, from a formidable leading man in Gene Kelly, the brilliant Debby Reynolds as the sparky ingenue destined to be a star, and hilariously funny support from Jean Hagan and Donald O Connor (try keeping your face straight during ‘Make Em Laugh’). Singin’ in the Rain is the musical by which all others must be judged. If you haven’t seen it, why not?

singin

And one I’ve yet to see…

Jersey Boys

The stage version of Jersey Boys is one of my favourites, and as the film version is directed by Clint Eastwood, I really want to see this. Jersey Boys is the story of The Four Seasons, led by Frankie Valli, and their rise to fame in the early 1960s. The memorable songs like Sherry, Walk like a Man and Big Girls Don’t Cry make this a cinematic treat to savour.

jersey

If you like the sound of any of these musicals, you can find more information here.

For a chance to win all five of my chosen films, you can enter using the entry form below.
5 Classic Films DVD Competition

Jersey Boys receives a standing ovation at the New Alex Theatre

The much anticipated musical Jersey Boys opened at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham last night and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Sparkling set pieces, uniformly excellent performances, and those magical songs ensured that the packed house was on its feet by the end of the show, all hoping for one more song before they trooped off into the bitterly cold night. It was just that good.

image001(1)

Jersey Boys is the story of the Four Seasons, the New Jersey band who had hit after hit at the start of the swinging 60s. I recently interviewed lead Jersey Boy Tim Driesen, who is playing Frankie Valli in this tour, and he said that the Four Seasons were a band with a back story that was kept hidden away, a group no-one really knows anything about. The start of the story shows a group of young felons, caught up in petty crime and larceny, serving time behind bars, whilst striving for fame and fortune with the perfect band line up. They were not exactly the wholesome, all American boys their later image suggested.

Jersey Boys


Lewis Griffiths, Tim Driesen, Sam Ferriday and Stephen Webb in JERSEY BOYS UK tour credit Helen Maybanks

In this early section, Tommy De Vito, played with real virile intensity and swagger by Stephen Webb, dominates. His drive to put a winning band line-up together, and simultaneously protecting the young Frankie Valli, whilst almost introducing him to a life of crime, is the heart of the early story.  With Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths – just brilliant, and totally droll and funny in so many scenes.) they go through a series of names and line-ups, with their lead singer Frankie Valli being their saving grace. But when Joe Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci) introduces former one-hit-wonder Bob Gaudio to the group – the stage is set for Pop history to be made.

Sam Ferriday plays the songwriter extraordinaire Bob Gaudio with a youthful, yet sensibly calm demeanor that is a great counter balance to hothead Tommy. His friendship with Frankie Valli is a joy to watch, the support they give to one another is another strength of the story. Tim Driesen is just a revalation as Frankie Valli, that falsetto voice is pure and perfect and just soars across the theatre. The first time he sings Sherry I just got the shivers, it was such a brilliant moment, whilst the pathos and heartbreak he brings to ‘my eyes adored you’ was another brilliant moment in a performance packed with so many.

 Lewis Griffiths, Tim Driesen, Sam Ferriday and Stephen Webb in JERSEY BOYS UK tour credit Helen Maybanks


Lewis Griffiths, Tim Driesen, Sam Ferriday and Stephen Webb in JERSEY BOYS UK tour credit Helen Maybanks

Some would argue that the songs are the real stars of Jersey Boys, and certainly, they have stood the test of time to sound just as good today as they did in their heyday. Standout moments are many – but I would certainly say ‘Can’t take my eyes off you’ was a sublime moment of musical theatre that will linger in the memory for the longest time.

Jersey Boys is probably the best musical I have ever seen, and the best recommendation I can give is to say I wish I was going to see it again tonight, and tomorrow, and Saturday…as I said, it is that good.

Jersey Boys is at the New Alexandre Theatre, Birmingham until Sunday 4th January 2015. Click here for ticket information.