Theatre review: Jersey Boys, Edinburgh Playhouse

Sam Ferriday, Tim Driesen, Stephen Webb and Lewis Griffiths are superb as Gaudio, Valli, De Vito and Massi
Sam Ferriday, Tim Driesen, Stephen Webb and Lewis Griffiths are superb as Gaudio, Valli, De Vito and Massi
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A PLAY can give you a good story, a musical can deliver strong vocals and a gig can provide an adrenalin rush.

Jersey Boys - Edinburgh Playhouse

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Rarely do you find these qualities in the same package – but that’s exactly what you get with Jersey Boys.

At its most basic level, it’s a rags to riches Cinderella story, the tale of four young boys from New Jersey who try to break out of their poor, crime-ridden neighbourhood by starting a band.

Fast forward a few years, and the Four Seasons are playing to thousands, selling a hundred million records, and the money and girls are rolling in.

But Jersey Boys dares to look behind the sharp suits and number one records, to the harsh realities of fame and a perpetual life on the road. Neglected families, angry mob bosses and the internal politics of four egos sharing the same space eventually catch up with the boys – which is tough for them, but fascinating for us.

On its own, the previously untold story of one of the biggest groups of the 1960s would be a winner. Add in a soundtrack that features hit after hit (many of which people will know, but have no idea it was the Four Seasons who wrote them) and you’ve got a seriously good show.

Perhaps the cleverest aspect of Jersey Boys is the structure. As founder member Tony DeVito says at the start: “If you ask four guys what happened, you’ll get four different versions.”

To that end, the show is split into Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, giving each band member a chance to tell the audience their side of the story, which means all of them work their way into our affections.

Regardless of their various idiosyncrasies, we get to know and care about Bob Gaudio, Tony DeVito, Nick Massi and Frankie Valli – and it’s that context which gives their song lyrics extra resonance.

The slow build also works well, so by the time the boys go from jobbing musicians to successful recording artists, we really feel we’re in the presence of bona fide pop stars.

This is helped in no small part by the superb cast, whose vocal ability, slick moves and magnetic stage presence make songs such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You a pure thrill to watch.

Seen on 09.10.14

• Until 25 October