Wales Millennium Centre until 26th Jan.
A Jukebox Musical is one that takes the songs of famous singers or groups and turns them into a show, the most famous example being Mamma Mia. They’ve been around since 1962, but took off in the 2000’s, this one being written In 2005.
They normally fall into two types, the first where they tie the songs together using an original story, like Mamma Mia. The second is where the songs are used as signposts in the life story of the artist, and this is what we have here.
Four guys grow up in New Jersey in the 50’s, where the only way out was through the army, crime or music. They got together, took the name of a bowling alley called The Four Seasons and had a string of hits (Walk Like A Man, Bye Bye Baby, Let’s Hang On, Big Girls Don’t Cry) powered by their group harmonies and Frankie Valli’s unique voice.
The show is divided into four parts (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter) each told separately by one of the four members, symbolising the group’s rise and fall, and also how the truth has more than one side to it.
Beginning in 1954, we follow Frankie Valliand Tommy DeVito through their ups and downs, time in prison, and the many different bands they go through, before they are joined by guitarist Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio, a singer & songwriter introduced to the others by fellow Jersey Boy and Oscar-winning actorJoe Pesci, which, amazingly, is true.
Produced by Bob Crewe, they were the first white group signed by Vee-Jay Records, and had their first No.1 with Sherry in 1962, and their last with December 1963 thirteen years later.
Written in 2005, this show gets full marks from me for several reasons: The songs are memorable, the staging is great, the performers are highly talented, and the story is incredible. What’s also impressive is that the band are portrayed realistically, they were no angels and paid the price for it. We see the cost of fame, divorces, debts both financial and spiritual, and personal tragedy, but also that what kept them going through it all was a love of music.
With a running time of 2 hours 40, the time flies by, my own highlight being “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, which has a special meaning for Welsh football fans reflected by the Cardiff audience, which gave the show a standing ovation, which it utterly deserved.