Jersey Boys

Jan 26 2023 | By More

★★★★☆   Slick and seamless

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 24 Jan – Sat 4 Feb 2023
Review by Thom Dibdin

Packed with hits and bristling with energy, Jersey Boys, the musical telling of the formation and career of the Four Season, returns to the Playhouse for another extended stay until February 4.

It’s tempting to say that the show walks like a man, or is working its way back, or some such reference to the Four Season’s many, many hits. But there is nothing pedestrian about this slick and seamless show with its crisp harmonies and clever storytelling.

Blair Gibson, Ryan Heenan, Dalton Wood & Christopher Short in Jersey Boys. Pic: Birgit + Ralf Brinkhoff

Writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have gone straight to the source for their 2004 script, which leans heavily on interviews with the then surviving members of the original Four Seasons – Tommy DeVito, Frankie Valli and Bob Guido, while including a section with original bass player Nick Massi.

It is revelatory stuff, too, dwelling at some length on the early years of the quartet and overturning their previous squeaky clean image to show a youth laced through with stretches in prison and a career that involves the Mafia.

Of course, not every individual remembers the stories in the same way. The solution, and one which ensures there is an added depth to the four characters, is to tell the story from four different perspectives, allowing each to narrate a different season.

crisply delivered

All the while, the songs they were singing at the time keep coming, crisply delivered under MD Griff Johnson and his band.

Dalton Wood leads off in Spring as a knowing older-brother figure Tommy DeVito, who schooled Valli in the arts of burglary as much as bringing him onto the stage, years before the group settled on the Four Seasons as a name.

The full Jersey Boys Cast at the finale. Pic: Birgit + Ralf Brinkhoff

Wood brings an eye-popping arrogance to the role, charming and blunt in equal measure as he both wraps Frankie up in his nefarious villainies and looks out for his back when Frankie gets conned – persuading a Mafia boss to make it all go away – but only if Frankie can sing My Mother’s Eyes to the boss..

He’s a real contrast to Blair Gibson’s rather gauche Bob Guido – the one-hit-wonder kid who joined the group as a song writer. Part of the show’s allure is the way each band member changes when it is their turn to narrate, none more than Gibson who brings a self assurance and charm to his turn in Summer.

Gone, then, is the romanticisation of their past misdemeanours to be replaced by a more realistic attitude to their dealings with the record industry, singing backing vocals for JeeJay records. But eventually hitting gold with a string of hits: Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man.

endearing and modest

If the structure plays fast and somewhat loose with the band’s chronology, it succeeds in giving real flesh to the central characters. Nick Massi, who died in 2000 is understandably the least well drawn.

Not that Christopher Short has any problems in making him perhaps the most endearing and modest of the four in his Fall sequence, covering the departure of DeVito and beginning to explore De-Vito’s complex relationship with Valli.

Blair Gibson, Dalton Wood, Michael Pickering (alternate Frankie Valli) & Christopher Short in Jersey Boys. Pic: Birgit + Ralf Brinkhoff.jpg

It’s left to Ryan Heenan as Frankie Valli to pick up the Winter sequence, which gets more personal for him – as his relationship with his daughter collapses and she later dies of a drug overdose while Gaudio decides to quit touring and concentrate on writing the continuing band’s songs.

Heenan, who alternates with Michael Pickering in the role, has a real boyish charm about him and hits all the notes. When he steps up to the footlights to deliver the lead solo, there is a real spine tingle about it, as he laps up the applause. Can’t take My Eyes Off Of You, indeed.


The hard-working and multi-tasking 17-strong company deliver as slick and full-blooded performance as you would want, allowing historical facts to slide one into the other. There is a consequent tendency for the supporting characters to be somewhat two dimensional and the exact timeline of events is never quite apparent.

But the whole piece hangs together under Des McAnuff’s clear direction on Klara Zieglerova’s minimalistic design. Michael Clark’s cartoon projections to provide clues as to place.

What you do have, is a brilliant celebration of the Four Seasons in a proper rags-to-riches tale, told in a manner to give new depth to over 30 featured numbers. And yes, temptation is worth giving in to: Oh, What a Night!

Running time: Two hours and 35 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Tue 24 Jan – Sat 4 February 2023
Mon- Sat: 7.30pm; Thurs, Sat Mat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here .


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