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.

 

Five Minutes with Tim Driesen from Jersey Boys

Ahead of a Christmas run at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, I had the opportunity to chat to Tim Driesen, who is playing Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys. The full interview is currently on the Style Birmingham website (you can read it here), but here are a few of Tim’s selected musings on Jersey Boys, Boy Bands and all things Christmas.

tcm17_312942_medium

On Frankie Valli

‘…I met Frankie Valli and was lucky enough to spend a morning with him. He is such a down-to-Earth guy, a real grafter. He has been in business since he was 15, and he’s now 80 and still doing 50-60 gigs a year. Music is in his blood, but it wasn’t handed to him on a plate.’

 

On his favourite Four Seasons Song

It has to be Can’t take my eyes of you. It’s iconic, but it was almost never released. It was too rough to be romantic, too soft to be rocky and the record company didn’t know how to sell it, and get airplay for it. This is a key part of Jersey Boys – the song is being talked about but not mentioned by name, and you can see the audience wondering which song it is, and the shock when they hear it. It is a definite high point of the show.

 

On the Universal Appeal of Jersey Boys

An American Journalist put it best – You come for the music and stay for the story. In these days of X Factor an instant fame the story is compelling – it took 10 years to get their first hit, no overnight success story. But they then got hit after hit in decade after decade – they were special.

JS32258888

On Boybands

Yes I did the Take That Musical ‘Never Forget’ and also We Will Rock You – the Queen musical, I guess that is my thing,  playing In ageing man bands. Ageing boys bands are my niche, the closest I’ll ever get to being in a boy band, but lots of fun.

On the best thing about Christmas

I like to eat a lot, drink a bit – I keep this for special occasions. I love Mulled Wine, hot chocolate, the Michael Buble Christmas album. Some people moan about Christmas but I love it, such a great time of year when people seem a little happier. I think that Is the best thing about Christmas, the way everyone feels.

9154939_orig

On future Ambitions

One of my fave musicals is Sunset Boulevard, I’d love to play the part of Joe Gillis, the man who ends up in the swimming pool. This is a classic musical, rather than what is sometimes called a jukebox musical, and Joe is a great lead role for an actor. Or I guess if there’s another musical about an ageing man band which needs a singer with a slightly high falsetto – I’m the man.

Jersey Boys starts a run at The New Alexandra Theatre on December 9th. Click here for ticket information.