REVIEW: Jersey Boys, Sunderland Empire, until September 19

Jersey Boys is at the Sunderland Empire.''From left,  Lewis Griffiths, Matt Corner, Sam Ferriday and Henry Davis.

Jersey Boys is at the Sunderland Empire.''From left, Lewis Griffiths, Matt Corner, Sam Ferriday and Henry Davis.

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The gritty realism of The Sopranos meets the spectacle of live theatre in this stage ode to one of the most successful bands in history.

Most people will be unfamiliar with the back story of prolific hit-makers Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Jersey Boys is at the Sunderland Empire.

Jersey Boys is at the Sunderland Empire.

Back then there was no Heat magazine and paparazzi to document every move of the band’s private lives, and the upbeat tempo of Earth Angel, Beggin’, Bye Bye Baby and Rag Doll belied behind-the-scenes brushes with the mob, eye-watering levels of debt, drugs and death.

Decades after the seemingly clean-cut band sailed on a wave of success, this musical shines a light on the darker side of fame, while also celebrating their infectious toe-tapper tunes.

These were wise guys from the wrong side of the tracks who defied the odds to make it big.

Key to their success was their harmonies and camaraderie on stage, and the same can be said of the four leads who bring this true story to the stage.

Vocals-wise, they have big winkle pickers to fill, but this quartet more than pulls it off.

The deliciously rich bass tones of Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi are contrasted and complemented to a tee by the famous falsetto of Frankie, replicated by North East lad Matt Corner who raises the roof with his high pitch.

Henry Davis as Tommy DeVito displays a knack for comic timing and exudes a lovable rogue charm, while Sam Ferriday as Bob Gaudio is a master of story-telling via song and in the show’s narration.

It would be all too easy to put this show on the road as another jukebox musical, a limp through the history of a household name, but the narrative is as strong as the score and really packs a punch in the emotional moments.

There’s a touch of Sinatra about this story where the band’s connection to the underbelly of society made them - but could also break them.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty of light to balance the shade. It’s easy to forget just how many tracks the Four Seasons released, but the hits come thick and fast and are instantly recognisable from the first few bars and I defy anyone not to let out at least one toe tap and head nod.

You really feel that epiphany moment when Bob joins the band and the four begin to gel. Their moments on stage, as a four, belting out the classics at full pelt, are real magic on tracks Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and the foot-stomping Walk Like a Man.

Oh What A Night - an entertaining marriage of low life connections and high-flying harmonies.