Theatre Review: JERSEY BOYS – Opera House, Manchester

The cast of JERSEY BOYS UK Tour 2022. Photo Credit: Birgit Ralf Brinkhoff

The cast of JERSEY BOYS UK Tour 2022. Photo Credit: Birgit Ralf Brinkhoff

Leaning on its talented cast and fantastic back catalogue, JERSEY BOYS is a thoroughly entertaining and impressively well-crafted show worthy of its ticket price.

5 out of 5 stars

Many musicals are often adapted from successful books, TV shows and hit movies, but JERSEY BOYS does something else entirely: it has been created from real life.

Based on the music and the inside story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, JERSEY BOYS tells the story of four ordinary men who became an extraordinary iconic pop group. The story begins in Jersey (where else?), the home to four of our blue-collar boys and a part of the world that’s renowned for producing global talents such as Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen.

Group member and self-professed founder Tommy Devito (Dalton Wood) is a smooth-talking, streetwise hustler with an eye for talent and a finger in every pie. In between stays at one of Jersey’s finest correctional facilities, he meets a very young and green-gilled Francis Castellucio, who, of course, becomes the band’s historic frontman, Frankie Valli.

Ryan Heenan as Frankie Valli in JERSEY BOYS UK Tour 2022. Photo: Birgit Ralf Brinkhoff

Ryan Heenan as Frankie Valli in JERSEY BOYS. Photo: Birgit Ralf Brinkhoff

Frankie (Ryan Heenan) is an affable and loyal character with two feet firmly planted on the ground, even if that ground happens to be on stage. It’s no mean feat to mimic Valli’s unique voice, but Heenan’s astonishing vocals and impressive vocal range lift him to the rafters. His falsetto is notable on its own but add in dancing and acting simultaneously, and he’s truly a triple threat.

Christopher Short brings a fantastic combination of comedy and gravitas to the role of bass player Nick Massi, while Blair Gibson is excellent as the straight-laced and squeaky-clean hit songwriter Bob Gaudio. Both deliver vocal performances that are on point.

The foursome is supported by a talented ensemble, including a trio of females – Kirsty Wheelan, Daisy Steere and Emma Crossley – who take on various roles.

Under the direction of two-time Broadway award-winning Des McAnuff, the show is visually stylish and runs at a seriously impressive pace. There is an incredible sense of precision, particularly regarding Sergio Trujillo’s authentic choreography, which captures the iconic synchronised movement of 1960’s crooners to perfection.

The cast of JERSEY BOYS UK Tour 2022. Photo Credit: Birgit Ralf Brinkhoff

The cast of JERSEY BOYS UK Tour 2022. Photo Credit: Birgit Ralf Brinkhoff

Klara Zieglerova’s set designs whisk us between locations, with statement set pieces frenetically flown in and out by the second, while Howell Binkley’s lighting picks up the shifting locations and tones of the story as it unfolds. Jess Goldstein’s excellent costume design completes the creative with a parade of sharp stage suits, ensuring the group looks like the musical superstars of the day.

JERSEY BOYS is a musical that feels like a play about four ordinary guys who write music. There’s crime and punishment, revenge and betrayal, family and women; all thrashed out in a Rashomon-style storytelling technique, re-telling the story from each point of view, replaying their music in a new context and giving us as the audience extra resonance.

As the show evolves, the music and performances mature, casting a true light on what the group’s lives were like. It’s also an opportunity to hear The Four Seasons’ fantastic back catalogue live. All the hits are here, from CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF YOU, BIG GIRLS DONT CRY, EARTH ANGEL and BYE BYE BABY. A closing rendition of WORKING MY WAY BACK TO YOU stands out as a highlight, with people dancing along with the cast in the aisles.

Thoroughly entertaining and impressively well-crafted, JERSEY BOYS is a show that’s well worth the ticket price, capiche!

JERSEY BOYS runs at the Opera House, Manchester, until 29 October 2022