The popularity of Jersey Boys seems to know no bounds, with the first national tour running for nearly two years, the West End production in its eighth year and numerous tribute acts touring the length and breadth of the country. It’s the turn of The Sherry Babys (formerly The Rag Dolls) to deliver the greatest hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as well as some of the most famous songs of the Doo-Wap era in their production Oh! What a Night.
The hits of the Four Seasons are delivered with slick choreography clearly influenced by Sergio Trujillo’s signature choreography for Jersey Boys and some chat in American accents of varying degrees of success. The vocals are universally on-point, the only bug-bear being the changing (forgetting?) of lyrics by the singer with the Frankie Valli falsetto which prompted a bit of interval chat – these songs are now so well known by the audience that they really need to be perfect. The live backing band are competent and add an immediacy and energy to the production that is lacking in some tribute acts who sing to backing tracks, though the levels in the venue were a little over-amped at times. The doo-wop hits are delivered with the same enthusiasm Overtones-style.
The almost universal popularity of this music means that you are always going to be on to a winner. A highly entertaining evenings entertainment, thoroughly enjoyed by the sell-out crowd.
With the national tour of Jersey Boys finishing in Edinburgh last week, fans of the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons needn’t despair. Four piece vocal group The Jerseytones deliver their own take on the fabulous hits of the 50s and 60s.
With a refreshing mix of favourite tunes from the Four Seasons, some greatest hits of the rock n roll era, a Dirty Dancing medley, a bit of Uptown Funk and a few modern classics with a doo-wop twist, it’s a programme of wall-to-wall winners with the packed auditorium at the East Kilbride Village Theatre.
The slick choreography and winning set-list are backed up by some first-rate vocals and rather than having a lead there are four fine singers here.
A thoroughly entertaining evening that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, a song in your heart and a spring in your step – highly recommended.
The UK tour of the Tony, Olivier and Grammy Award-winning Best Musical Jersey Boys comes to Glasgow at the Theatre Royal for the festive season from Tuesday 8 December 2015 – Sunday 3 January 2016.
Ahead of the multi-award-winning musical hitting town, Glasgow Theatre Blog had the opportunity to meet the cast and see a sneak peak of the show this week at Glasgow’s Oran Mor.
Matt Corner will be heading the cast as Frankie Valli* with Sam Ferriday as Bob Gaudio, Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi and Stephen Webb as Tommy DeVito**.
Seen by over 22 million people worldwide, Jersey Boys is the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their rise to stardom from the wrong side of the tracks. These four boys from New Jersey became one of the most successful bands in pop history, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and sold 100 million records worldwide, all before they turned 30. The show is packed with their hits, including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, My Eyes Adored You, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, Fallen Angel, Rag Doll and Who Loves You.
The Jersey Boys (and girls) stride into Glasgow. Image Ian Watson
I asked Lewis Griffiths (Nick Massi), Sam Ferriday (Bob Gaudio) and Henry Davis (Tommy DeVito) what they thought was the secret to Jersey Boys continued success.
Lewis Griffiths: “It’s real, it’s gritty and it’s credible, it’s a show that appeals to people who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre, especially to musicals”. Sam Ferriday adds: “The biggest thing, though is that although people might know the music, no one knew the back story of these guys, it’s turned out, that this is one of the reasons why the show has been such a hit, people are shocked by the actual story”. Henry Davis: “You don’t need to be a musical theatre fan to enjoy this show. People tell us that they’ve brought their husband, boyfriend, brother, dad and grandads, people who would normally never set foot in a theatre, to see the show and they’ve left more than pleasantly surprised. We’ve also been told that people have caught the theatre bug from coming to see the show. It appeals to such a wide demographic, it’s not just for one generation, it’s for everyone”. Lewis Griffiths: “Unlike big West End productions which have also toured, or are about to tour, shows like Mamma Mia, Wicked or Billy Elliot, this is a true story. It’s a legacy to these four men”.
Another secret of Jersey Boys’ success is the quality of its cast and it’s notoriously difficult casting process highlighted by producer David Ian: “It’s an unbelievably hard task to cast this show, any actor hoping to play Valli has to be under 5 foot 9 inches, look Italian-American, sing higher than Mickey Mouse and be able to act and dance as well as pulling off a believable New Jersey accent”, added to that, all actors vying for a part have to complete multiple auditions and a final vetting process by the real Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio before stepping onstage.
Producer David Ian at the Jersey Boys Glasgow Launch. Credit Ian Watson
With this is mind, and the shows reputation for quality control, I was interested to find out if each actor is able to bring anything of themselves to the roles of these flesh and blood characters.
Lewis Griffiths explains: “I’m the only one whose character is no longer with us, so for me I really had very little to go on. he was also the quiet man of the group. There are YouTube clips of the others, so there’s something there, but that was the interesting thing for me, I’ve had to develop my own way of playing Nick Massi. I’ve had to drip-feed my own life experience into my portrayal, and after a year of playing him, I now know when there’s either too much Lewis or too much Nick. It’s 50% the character and 50% the actor. Sam Ferriday adds, “yes, there are clips of Tommy DeVito, Franki Valli and Bob Gaudio as they are now, but few of them in their heyday, the era we’re playing them in, so it can be hard”.
Producer David Ian with Jersey Boys Sam Ferriday, Matt Corner, David Ian, Henry Davis, Lewis Griffiths – credit Ian Watson
Winner of Broadway’s Tony, London’s Olivier and Australia’s Helpmann Awards for Best New Musical, and a winner of 57 major awards worldwide, and with the UK and Ireland tour just passing its first birthday, I asked the actors how they sustained an enthusiasm and freshness for the show.
Sam Ferriday: “We’re fans, fans of the music and fans of this incredibly written play, and it is a play, a play with amazing music. I know I grew up with the music and Henry’s mum and dad were big fans, so he did too, so you never get bored with performing songs that you love”, he also adds “it’s also the closest you can get as an actor to feeling like a rock star every night”.
A true ensemble piece, each actor has their chance to shine. Having seen the show on several occasions the on-stage chemistry is always palpable, I ask if it’s the same off-stage. Lewis Griffiths says: “One of the secrets of its success is the fact that no one story or character dominates, it really is a story of these four guys and there has to be the right balance of personalities between the four of us and luckily there is”.
Credit – Ian Watson
Touring from the very top to the tail of the UK, the actors have covered a vast geographic area, I wondered if there were differences in audiences’ reaction to the show up and down the country. Lewis Griffiths: “Yes, surprisingly we’ve had different reactions everywhere we go”. Henry Davis: “I’ve been here in Glasgow with Rocky Horror and that was mental so I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction to this”.
In a show filled with highlights, I ask if there are any stand-out moments each night for the actors. Lewis Griffiths: “For me it’s the dirty, gritty, fractious relationship between the four of them, the break-ups, the real life of it, the guts of the show, that’s what I get off on”. Henry Davis: “For me it’s the journey. The chance to tell this person’s story and, of course, there’s the segment where they go into the big three hits, you can feel the audience’s anticipation and when it finally comes, it’s great to see the reaction, but the end where you get to see the character’s reflect back on their story from the present day, it’s a great feeling as an actor to get to play that complete journey”. Sam Ferriday: “I agree about the end, some of the best writing is the end, when each character finishes off their narrative, it sums up the essence of the person and you get to see who that character really is”. Henry Davis: “It resonates with the audience, it’s the point where it really clicks together”. Lewis Griffith, “Despite everything, they all come back together for the finale and it shows it’s not about any one person, it’s all about the music they made together”.
With producer David Ian intimating that Jersey Boys’ world domination seems set to continue with proposed forays into China and Hong Kong, I ask the actors about the future beyond the show and if they have any roles they have their eye on. Lewis Griffiths: “I’ve spent four years chasing this role and I’ve finally got it so I don’t actually want it to end, but I’d like to stretch my wings and do some straight acting roles”. Sam Ferriday: “In terms of musical theatre, Book of Mormon, Elder Price, it’s just a different way of acting, that comic style, otherwise something gritty”. Henry Davis: “I want to do everything, try anything”. From the audience and critical reactions to these four young men and this incredible show, I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear from them.
Jersey Boys will be at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal from Tuesday 8 December 2015 – Sunday 3 January 2016.
More mobster tale than musical, the multi-award-winning Jersey Boys was a welcome addition to the musical theatre canon when it burst onto the stage back in 2005. Managing to eschew all the usual musical theatre cliches, it presented the gritty story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in a way that not only delivered hit after hit, but made those who hate musicals love it. Seven years on and the public’s enthusiasm for the show hasn’t waned and neither, thankfully, has the quality of its hugely talented cast.
Rather a play with music than a tune-a-minute, all-out musical, there are plenty of surprises and enough drama in the storyline to keep the interest levels high throughout. Coupled with the sublime tunes that you may not know you know – but you do, it’s a winner on many levels.
The simple but effective set means that the action is firmly focused on the cast, and this is a cast that are universally deserving of praise. The sharing of the spotlight between all of the Four Seasons means that each man gets his chance to shine; Matt Corner’s Frankie Valli takes a little time to warm up vocally but was quickly in his stride, Sam Ferriday is a fine-voiced and wittily wry Bob Gaudio, Stephen Webb a convincingly hot-headed Tommy DeVito and Lewis Griffiths deserving of a medal for maintaining Nick Massi’s booming bass voice throughout.
The Theatre Royal should be applauded for providing a truly first-rate show as an alternative to the usual festive fodder and I’m glad to say it still remains a five star favourite with this critic all these years on.
Oh what a night it is as Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s West End and Broadway smash Jersey Boysarrives in Scotland’s capital. The rags to riches tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has always been a sure-fire winner with audiences and this first UK tour doesn’t disappoint.
Those coming to the tale expecting the run of the mill jukebox musical will be pleasantly surprised, while most may have heard the astonishing back catalogue of hits, many may be less familiar with the real-life antics of the quartet and the gritty reality provides a welcome foil to the showbiz glamour. This is so much more than a thinly drawn narrative stringing the band’s greatest hits together: the whole show has heart and guts and something to get your teeth into.
Though ever so slightly streamlined from the West End version, Klara Zieglerova’s simplistic but effective set is still very much in evidence, as is Sergio Trujillo’s iconic choreography, but what elevates this production is its cast. As Valli, Belgian actor/musician Tim Driesen is an absolute knock-out, he has the rare distinction of being able to sing at full power in every part of his range and oh boy what a range he has, going from baritone to eye-watering falsetto with ease, his New Jersey accent is also pitch-perfect. He is more than ably supported by Sam Ferriday (Bob Gaudio), Lewis Griffiths (Nick Massi) and Stephen Webb (Tommy DeVito), each in possession of impressive vocal chops and the combination of all four provides many a hairs on the back of the neck moment. They rival and at times, vocally surpass the original West End cast. Matt Gillett’s Bob Crewe also provides some welcome light relief throughout the piece.
This is a crowd pleaser in every way: great songs, great story, great singers and actors and the perfect antidote to the chilly autumn blues. It’s one of the world’s best-loved musicals and it isn’t hard to see why. Do yourself a favour and get along to see it if it comes to a city near you.
Based on Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s worldwide smash hit musical, the Jersey Boys movie promises to fill in some of the finer detail that the multi-award-winning stage show can’t portray. The story of how little Frankie Castelluccio and his buddies from the New Jersey projects became world-wide music stars is the classic rags to riches tale. What is less known is the far from lily white background of the band and their frequent brushes with not only the law, but with the Mafia (oh and there’s Joe Pesci – yes that Joe Pesci, too).
Those familiar with the stage musical might be slightly disappointed that it is the back story that is key here, rather than the music, that said, it sticks faithfully to the show’s script and provides welcome detail that illustrates just how incredible it was that these apparent no-hopers actually made it. It lacks some of the irresistible immediacy that the stage show delivers: in the theatre it is nigh-on impossible to remain immune to the lure of the band, on the occasions I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it, the audience, to a man, have been on their feet dancing and singing their hearts out (something you can’t exactly do in a movie theatre).
The movie’s biggest strength is its cast; the performances are universally top-notch, John Lloyd Young, the original and Tony Award-winning Frankie Valli onstage, delivers both vocally and emotionally in his portrayal of Valli, he is ably supported by fellow Jersey Boys the Musical alumni Michael Lomenda (Nick Massi) and Erich Bergen (Bob Gaudio) and Boardwalk Empire’s Vincent Piazza who turns in a stellar performance as band founder and mini-mobster Tommy DeVito.
It is first and foremost a thoroughly entertaining biopic, filled with first-class performances, not a recreation of the musical but a welcome accompaniment to the wonderful stage show. If you’ve seen the show go along for the extra detail, if you’ve never seen the show make sure you catch it when it embarks on it’s first ever national tour this autumn.
Scottish actor David McGranaghan recently joined the cast of the West End smash Jersey Boys in the starring role of Nick Massi. David’s impressive credits include: Colin in Chariots of Fire; Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew; Father Damian in Be Near Me in the Donmar Warehouse/ National Theatre of Scotland production, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Boyfriend and Lady Be Good at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to talk to David about his path from pupil at the Dance School of Scotland to the West End via the Royal Shakespeare Company and award-winning board game inventing!
Can we go back to the start, tell us about your background and what inspired you to become an actor.
I started off singing in my school’s music department. Through this came concerts and performances, so I almost fell into acting through my love for music. To move into working on scripts after performing lyrics and characters felt like a natural progression.
I see that you were a pupil at the Dance School of Scotland; I have interviewed many actors for this series and a large number are alumni of the school; what do you think it is about the training there that has produced so many top-rank West End performers?
I think that the teachers are very dedicated to their work, and their passion for the arts feeds into their pupils. Also they let us know from the very beginning that everything is down to hard work, so improvements are down to dedication and focus. I think from looking at myself and fellow Dance School students you can still see that in their attitude towards work and the industry.
You have a very varied CV, from the RSC to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre and much more in between, what have been the highlights up to getting your current role in Jersey Boys?
I have been very lucky to jump around different types of theatre however working at the Donmar Warehouse which was a co-production with The National Theatre of Scotland was a great experience. It was a play called ‘Be Near Me’ which was set in my home turf of Ayrshire, and we premiered in Kilmarnock (40 minutes from my home) before we went down to London. Of course working on four completely different productions for the Royal Shakespeare Companies 50th Anniversary Season was another highlight. Working with phenomenal directors, actors and plays, it was as good as it can get for any young actor.
Before we talk about your starring role in Jersey Boys you are an award-winning entrepreneur, tell us about Game for Fame.
I invented a board game with fellow actor friend Joseph Pitcher (currently on tour with RSC’s Winter’s Tale) and we decided to go into business with it. It is fun family board game that takes the mick out of our celebrity obsessed society. Players must fight for fame and fortune by playing a number of fun games, and just like the real celeb circuit talent has nothing to do with success. While avoiding the Dole Queue or Re-Hab, players must attempt different games like guessing accents or talking with their tongue hanging out of their mouth, all with a very funny outcome (especially if a few glasses of wine are involved). It has been a great success for us both with deals from Tesco as well as a number of small stores and of course online, and we enjoy working on its success alongside our acting. For more information check out www.gameforfame.co.uk
Let’s talk about your current starring role as Nick Massi in Jersey Boys, tell us a bit about the role of Nick and how you have prepared for it.
Nick is the bass player of the famous Four Seasons group. He is described as the ‘harmony genius’ and his three passions are music, woman and booze…in that order. Since he hates conflict or the arguments that the four guys find themselves in, he is often the quiet member of the group until he gets pushed too far and blows up. For playing Nick I taught myself Bass guitar for a start. Just playing a bass makes you feel very cool, simple and effortless, which is very much like Nick. I also did a lot of research about New Jersey, watched lots of Four Season performances with a fine tooth comb and watched movies based around the area and time of the group. After that the Jersey Boys creative team had so many stories that had been passed down from the band regarding the real Nick Massi that became a massive influence when building the character up.
Jersey Boys is a phenomenal success in the West End, what is it like to join a show that is as well-established and well-loved as it is?
It’s exciting and intimidating at the same time. Since I was already a fan of the show I couldn’t wait to get the red jacket on and get going, however since it’s so well known you are aware that you are handling something that is precious to a lot of people, and if you mess up you will know about it. Thankfully that cast and creatives have all been great in guiding me during the rehearsal period while still giving me the freedom to explore my own ideas.
What do you think it is about Jersey Boys that makes it so popular with all age groups?
The music is timeless and appeals to all generations I think. I also think good theatre appeals to anyone no matter what age group they belong to. Our older audience members will remember some of the hits when they first came out however younger theatre goers will still surprise themselves with how many hits they know. The script is also based on their true story, and I think that each character and journey can resonate with all of us.
What drives you as a performer?
The excitement of auditioning or working on a role that you have lots of ideas for. Trying those ideas out and learning more about the character and yourself, going back to the drawing board and improving every time (well, hopefully improving). I think that is what drives me, the constant challenge and the never ending learning and discovering.
Are there any actors whom you admire or careers you’d like to emulate?
Hugh Jackman. Anyone that can do Oklahoma and Wolverine in one career has to be number one.
What ambitions would you still like to fulfil?
I now develop game shows for some companies off the back of Game For Fame so for one to work right through to commission would be a dream come true. Acting wise I’d love to do some Sondheim, Gabey in On The Town, work at venues such as The Globe and National and one day play MacBeth…not asking much really.
What advice would you give to any aspiring actors back home in Scotland?
Work hard. Put the hours in now and they will pay you back later.
Finally, what words best describe David McGranaghan?
Very good at Maths!
*DAVID AND HIS CO-STARS WILL BE APPEARING TOMORROW EVENING 6TH APRIL AT 7PM ON ANT AND DEC’S SATURDAY NIGHT TAKEAWAY*
In this production Let’s Hang On take you on a musical journey through the prolific career of one of the most successful bands of all time – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. The show tells the story of some blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks who wrote their own songs, invented their own sound and took the world by storm all before the age of 30. Mmm…sounds a bit like a rather well-known, long running West End show you might have heard of. Well let’s hang on…
In the first part of the show Let’s Hang On take you back to where it all began for the Four Seasons. There are tracks from the early 50’s when Frankie Valli first joined the group, and then, with the addition of song-writing giant Bob Gaudio, you’re treated to even more classic hits of the era.
Also in this first section of the show the stage is transformed into a street corner in New Jersey, with the group, under a street lamp singing doo-wop music a capella style.
In the second part of the show its back to back favourite hits; Dec ’63, Beggin’, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Grease, Working My Way Back To You, Who Loves You, Bye, Bye Baby and many more…
The show leads up to the finale when out come the red Jersey Boys jackets and you hear the falsetto vocals in the songs; “Rag Doll, Sherry, Walk Like A Man and Big Girls Don’t Cry.
This was an absolutely fantastic show from the first note ringing out to the standing, or should I say dancing, ovation at the end. The sheer quality of the musicianship and the detail and care with which this was done was impressive. Robin Maughan in the role of Frankie Valli was outstanding: with a pitch perfect falsetto throughout, as was Dino Buttarazzi on lead guitar. A fabulous night out and I would whole-heartedly recommend it to everyone. Brilliant music, brilliant musicians – simply just brilliant.
Find out more about them and their up-coming tour dates here
Another show I saw this year in the West End was Jersey Boys. On first glance it looks like another one of your standard “jukebox” musicals, but it was staged with much more style than that. The back story is astonishing including brushes with the Mafia and an appearance by Joe Pesci!! There’s more to this than you would imagine.
The strength of the show is the quality of the musicianship and the singing. Ryan Molloy as Frankie was particular strong.
The most astonishing thing to me was how many well known songs were actually originally Four Seasons songs.
The audience were on their feet at the end, dancing and singing with the best of them – if you need a pick me up go and see this, I guarantee it will put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.