Jersey Boys, Theatre Review. Empire Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10

Cast: Michael Watson, Simon Bailey, James Winter, Karl James Wilson, Stephen O’ Brien, Joel Elferink, Mark Heenehan, Arnold Mabhena, Tara Young, Olive Robinson, Amy Thiroff, Dan O’ Brien, Peter Nash.

Musicians: Francis Goodhand, Tom Theakston, Sarah Burrell, Christian Sutherland, Iestyn Jones, Samuel Firsht.

There are many voices, lauded, passionate, full of life, that we hear every day, their songs enthral us, unite us, remind of what it is too feel, to be part of something bigger that we might believe ourselves to be. What we do forget though is the stories behind those voices, we forget as we listen to our favourite song or sit in the blissful memory of a tune that transports us back in time, that the songs came from somewhere deep and personal, that they are the product of a moment that is forever framed.

When it comes to the music of the Four Seasons and especially the song writing of Bob Gaudio and the voice of Frankie Valli, then that memory is perhaps more enhanced than any other band in history with arguably the exceptions of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. A hybrid between the two perhaps, songs of love and passion and easily identifiable places in the same mould as The Beatles and the infectious American standards of new possibilities placed on offer by Brian Wilson and the intrepid sound of West Coast America.

For the Jersey Boys, the story is one of hardship, pain, beauty and magnificence, a revolving door of prison for a couple of members, brushes with the law, debts, the mob, the sound of post war opportunity and optimism tempered by real life. If anyone was going to put New Jersey on the musical map and long before the greats of Glen Danzig and Bruce Springsteen, and even more so than Frank Sinatra as he seemed more determined to escape the confines of his home state more than anyone, then it was only ever going to be The Four Seasons.

To be in the presence of anyone who can take a song and give it their full attention, to make it stand out and make those goose bumps come up on your skin, to even hopefully make you shed more than a single tear in gratitude and thanks, then that moment is secure and locked away in your head till the end of your days. To listen to Michael Watson perform, not just the part of Frankie Valli, but the voice that captured a generation and beyond, then that is nothing less than a privilege. In songs such as Walk Like A Man, My Mother’s Eyes and the phenomenal My Eyes Adored You, that privilege is enough to break your heart with the kindness and sincerity intended.

The return of the Jersey Boys to the Liverpool Empire is one that deserves huge praise, musically spot on, avid in its story telling and one that really gets under the skin; a tremendous production in which to start 2018 off in Liverpool, a memory of the songs that make your heart beat faster and feel glad to be alive.

Ian D. Hall