Sunday 25 February 2018

Musicals, the mob and great rock 'n roll

Musical: Jersey Boys, Bord Gais Energy Theatre

Jersey Boys - the story of Frankie Valli
Jersey Boys - the story of Frankie Valli
Ed Power

Ed Power

The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons packs a great deal more dramatic punch than the average rock biography.

Though hits such as 'Sherry' and 'Walk Like A Man' were almost giddily girlish, the group might have swaggered out of an episode of The Sopranos (on which Valli later had a cameo): from working-class New Jersey, they had mob connections and cut their teeth in the sort of clubs where the audience signalled its approval by cheerfully flinging bottles at your head and evinced dislike for your music by ripping the seats up.

So while the smash 'jukebox musical' Jersey Boys is, of course, endlessly cheesy, it also contains a surprising amount of kitchen-sink melodrama. We watch as shy, boyish Francesco Castelluccio (Belgian actor Tim Driesen) is reinvented as the transcendentally squeaky Franki Valli. Later, we see his marriage fall apart as a result of the pressures (and perks) of life on the road and witness the quartet thrown into crisis after tall-haired guitarist Tommy DeVito's (Stephen Webb) Mafia debts almost result in a hit being called down on his head.

None of which can quite skirt around the inherit flaw of jukebox musicals - that the songs interrupt the narrative rather than drive it forward (their fundamental purpose in old-school Broadway shows).

Still, the music is mostly great, the minimalist Roy Lichtenstein-influenced set evocative, the cast, also including Sam Ferriday as Four Seasons' songwriter Bob Gaudio and Lewis Griffiths as bassist Nick Massi, palpably enthusiastic.

Admittedly, Goodfellas-meets-A Hard Day's Night might sound like a strange pitch for an evening out - but Jersey Boys pulls off the remarkable feat of delivering an infusion of good clean fun even as it trains a spotlight on the less glamorous side of the rock and roll dream.

Irish Independent

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