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A look ahead to the Jersey Boys in Manchester

PUBLISHED: 13:36 05 August 2014

Jersey Boys launch in The Comedy Store, Manchester. Photo by Phil Tragen

Jersey Boys launch in The Comedy Store, Manchester. Photo by Phil Tragen

Archant

When the hit West End show Jersey Boys rolls into Manchester, to start its first-ever national tour, it comes complete with a couple of decades-worth of stage props, period guitars and custom-tailored clothing.

Jersey Boys stage manager Nick Egen with one of the stage jackets. Picture: Pamela Raith PhotographyJersey Boys stage manager Nick Egen with one of the stage jackets. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography

For it’s all very well re-creating the authentic sound of American quartet The Four Seasons on stage night after night, but without the same attention to detail for the look of the award-winning show, the effect could be lost.

With 39 scene changes in the first act alone that means having the right style of 50s microphone on stage at the same time as its contemporary telephone counterpart. Blink, and an audience member might miss the detail, but you can bet stage manager Nick Egen won’t . . .

He’s been with the West End production for seven years and on an exclusive backstage tour it’s evident that his knowledge of the show is second to none. Carefully stored and listed, either side of the stage, are shelves full of props, enough guitars to fill a music shop window, and racks of costumes that range from retro 50s, through the Vegas cabaret 70s, to modern day. Pull any one of them out and you can bet Nick knows which character wears what, when and where!

Some of the guitars, in particular, are collectables and may make only a fleeting stage presence, but that’s enough to guarantee period detail. As we talk a large piece of authentic bowling alley scenery descends from the area above the stage, ready for its own moment in the spotlight – which lasts about 30 seconds.

For a show that’s now been staged somewhere in the world for nearly 10 years everything, of course, runs on rails – literally – with tracks set in the floor to glide larger items on and off stage in a trice.

So Manchester audiences will experience the same production that first hit New York back in 2005 and which has gone on to garner an astonishing 55 major awards worldwide, including an Olivier and a Tony for best musical. The UK tour will be staged by the entire original Broadway creative team.

The show is much more than a standard ‘jukebox musical’ – simply re-creating the music of lead singer Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, or wrapping it round a Mamma Mia-style fiction. Instead it tells the story of four boys who found a way out of delinquency in New Jersey to become international recording stars.

Naturally, this being showbusiness, such success is achieved at a human cost and the show pulls no punches in re-creating the background of Mob influences, infidelity, addiction and betrayal. Until someone makes an opera out of The Sopranos, or maybe a musical from Goodfellas, this is more than sufficient . . .

The story is composed from the testimony of all four original members of the band and, once again, bears the hallmark of authenticity. Likewise some of it is adult language.

In Manchester Tim Driesen will be heading the cast as Frankie Valli. He most recently played the role in the Dutch production and has previously played the role in the West End.

He also created the role of Adrian Banks (the character based on Mark Owen from Take That) in Never Forget, when it played at the Opera House in Manchester seven years ago.

Stephen Webb, Sam Ferriday and Lewis Griffiths will star as Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi respectively.

Jersey Boys is at the Palace Theatre Manchester from September 4 to October 4.

Box office: 0844 871 3019 or www.atgtickets.com/manchester

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