Theatre review: New Jersey Nights

The New Jersey Nights crew delivered a great show at Derngate
The New Jersey Nights crew delivered a great show at Derngate
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As an unashamed Frankie Valli fan, New Jersey Nights - which began a week-long run at the Royal & Derngate on Monday night - was always likely to go down pretty well with me.

But the best thing that can be said about the production is that you don’t need to be a Four Seasons diehard, or even someone who lived through the golden 1960s era, to enjoy it, because the music is so well known and so excellently reproduced by the cast and crew.

The show is different from the West End musical Jersey Boys in that it does not attempt to tell the story of the group’s enormous success, instead focusing almost entirely on the easily-identifiable songs.

There is a brief piece of history before some numbers but the emphasis is placed firmly on the music above anything else, a formula that works to perfection.

More than 30 songs are faithfully covered, including all the well-known hits - Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man, Sherry - and a few rarer gems - Dawn, My Eyes Adored You - and a few numbers from other acts of the era are thrown in for good measure.

The set for the first half is enclosed, featuring backdrops such as a bar and a recording studio, and after the interval it opens out to bring the band into play and create a fuller viewing experience.

One of the band members, the saxophonist Dean Mongerio, is given licence to display his huge talent in a jazz version of Earth Angel that goes down a storm with the audience.

The real highlights come during the show’s final quarter and in particular when the ‘Four Seasons’ - Joshua Dever, Jon Hawkins, Damion Scarcella and Simon Schofield - perform acapella and deliver the trademark harmonies for which the group were well known.

All four vocalists attempt and pull off the famous falsetto, although the same can not be said of the many crowd members who attempt to match the high notes.

A heartfelt rendition of Fallen Angel, Valli’s tribute to his two deceased daughters, closes the ‘slow section’ of the performance before the volume is turned back on for a sing-along finish.

Working My Way Back to You, Grease and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You close the show and by the end of it almost everyone in the theatre is on their feet.

So while the performance, by its nature, was always going to be warmly appreciated by a fan like me, the careful pacing of the production and the sheer talent of the singers and musicians involved, made it a real treat.

New Jersey Nights is running at Derngate until Saturday June 15. Tickets are available from the box office, at www.royalanderngate.co.uk or by calling 01604 624811.