Jersey Boys are ‘working their way back’ to Milton Keynes this February and we were lucky enough to catch up with Michael Pickering (Frankie Valli), Lewis Griffiths (Nick Massi), Blair Gibson (Bob Gaudio), and Dalton Wood (Tommy DeVito) who talk nostalgia, gambling and Covid
What can audiences expect when they come to see the show?
Dalton: They’re in for a fun-filled night with amazing music, on top of which, there’s a true and gritty story. It’s all-round entertainment.
Michael: It’s one of those shows where if someone says ‘My husband won’t come see a musical’ this is the one you bring them to because they’re going to love musicals after seeing it. Sometimes men get dragged along to it and they leave going ‘Oh my God that was amazing’. It’s a wonderful night out.
Is it just what audiences are craving right now, after all the lockdowns and restrictions?
Michael: Absolutely. It’s got such a great story, everyone loves the music, and it kind of relates to the world we’re living in at the moment because the Four Seasons went through such hard times yet they kept going. It’s an inspiring story and we all need that at the moment.
Lewis: With the greatest respect to Jersey Boys I think faithful theatre audiences are craving anything they can get their hands on. But Jersey Boys just happens to be one of those shows that puts life into perspective and makes you smile at the same time.
Why do you think there’s still such nostalgia for the music?
Michael: No-one has come close to touching it since. They had the four-part harmonies and Frankie’s unique falsetto, and they were a group – they were a team and a family, not some manufactured band. They loved what they did and they worked hard to get to the top.
Dalton: Frankie is still out there and still going strong, which helps keep the music alive as does the show. Beggin’ is a hit all over again, which is amazing, and all their music is just incredible. That’s why it keeps coming back round again and again.
Blair: The songs are classics. As Dalton says, Beggin’ is now one of the bestselling songs around the world and it originally came out in 1967. Their music is timeless.
How would you describe your respective characters in the show?
Michael: Frankie Valli has the biggest heart and a wonderful talent. What he lacks in stature he makes up for in heart and I think he falls on hard times because of how much he gives to his family and friends.
Lewis: Nick is the band’s bassist and arranger, a musical genius and the strong, silent type. He’s incredibly enigmatic, with his quirks and his isms, and he’s dealing with his demons – which really resonates in this day and age where there’s more awareness of mental health.
Blair: Bob is the composer who wrote all the songs for the Four Seasons as well as for other artists. He also had a role in the production side of things, especially later on in their careers. He’s very pragmatic and very logic-driven, which is what the group needed at the time, and it’s part of the reason they’re still big and still successful today.
Dalton: Tommy is the one who started the band. He has his issues; he’s a big gambler and gets into money troubles. But he’s the one that brought them all together and he’s such a big character to play.
There are so many great songs in the show. Do you have any favourites to perform?
Dalton: I love the big three, so that’s Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man. Those were the group’s first big hits. We perform them one after another. The dance moves and the harmonies come out – they’re such fun to perform.
Michael: For me it’s Cry for Me, which comes quite early in the show. It shows the boys coming together one by one and it’s the first time they hit their harmonies and go ‘This is it’.
Lewis:Beggin’ is so infectious. It’s groovy but it’s dark and gritty. It’s an uplifting pop song but with a deep meaning to it in terms of the lyrics and where it falls in the story. I also love Stay because it comes after a really intense, explosive scene and it shows them lacing up their shoes, straightening their ties and stepping out in front of a crowd. It’s like ‘We’re still here, we’re thriving, and we love what we do’ and that’s kind of a metaphor for myself and people who are striving to work in the theatre industry at the moment. Kudos to anyone that’s doing it.
Blair: I love Let’s Hang On because it’s when they’ve come out of a period of darkness and angst and it’s all about the music again. We’re dancing around. [Laughs] The good old thigh slap.
It’s not just a jukebox musical, is it?
Lewis: Absolutely not. It can easily, mistakenly be labelled a jukebox musical by people who aren’t familiar with the terminology but it’s actually a play. Jersey Boys has always been a play where this incredible back catalogue of music is interwoven through the story chronologically.
Dalton: It’s a play with songs because it tells their story. You get all the music everyone still loves and wants but you also get a gripping true story.
Blair: People come expecting the songs they know and love but they go away having learned something because not everyone knows the ins and outs of the plot. It’s almost like a documentary told by the band themselves. You get different points of view on the same story from these four people who are four very different guys. It’s a very dramatic narrative but also has that feel-good element. I feel good just doing it.
How have audiences been so far?
Lewis: It’s been such a pleasant surprise. Theatre has been a long-suffering victim of the pandemic and there’s some apprehension but they’re coming back to theatres in droves and loving it. They’re showing their approval by having a great time.
Dalton: We’ve had standing ovations every night so far and fingers crossed that carries on. The reaction has been so positive and for us as performers it’s just nice to be back out there again after so long.
What do you hope people will feel when they leave the theatre?
Dalton: We end the show with such joyous numbers everyone knows, even if they weren’t around at the time they first came out. They’ll leave upbeat and happy. They’ll have had a fun, energising evening whilst learning a bit more about the Four Seasons’ story along the way.
Blair: It has peaks and valleys, with fun moments and some really dramatic ones. It gives you feel-good moments then brings you back down to earth before ending with Who Loves You – a song that everyone knows and which has everyone on their feet. I think they’ll leave feeling ecstatic but also surprised by what they’ve learned. We’ve had so many people say ‘We had no idea about the story, we just came for the music’. There’s a lot of appreciation, which is always nice to hear.
Jersey Boys is at Milton Keynes Theatre from Wednesday 23rd February to Saturday 5th March. For tickets, visit www.atgtickets.com/MiltonKeynes