Review: Jersey Boys, Sunderland Empire until March 31
I tried really, really hard not to start this review by saying, "oh, what a night".
It seems like the obvious choice - and it is. But I make no apology for it because listening to the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons was the ideal way to spend my Wednesday night.
And oh, what a night it was.
We were instantly transported from the beautiful decor of Sunderland's Empire theatre to the urban streets of New Jersey to meet Tommy DeVito (Simon Bailey) who became our evening's first storyteller.
Split into the four seasons (see what they did there) with each of the leading men taking a chapter, Jersey Boys takes us through the dizzying highs and perhaps lesser-known lows of Frankie, Tommy, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi as they hit the big time, hit the road and hit rock bottom.
We follow the boys through jail time, drug debts and B&Es (breaking and entering, to those of us not in the know) as their stars continue to rise to top of the charts. And, of course, their gritty story is peppered with a whole host of classic hits you just can't help but sing along to.
If there's one thing that's integral to the success of any group, it's chemistry. At one time, at least, The Four Seasons had it in spades.
And the same can definitely be said for our four leading men.
Frankie (Dayle Hodge), Bob (Declan Egan), Nick (Lewis Griffiths) and Tommy were a joy to watch as they worked together, performed as one and eventually fell apart.
In the beginning, Frankie is that lovable underdog we're all rooting for, while Tommy is the rogue we know we shouldn't like - but we just can't help it.
A little bit of all of us wanted to take Bob under our wing (and have him write a song about us, of course) while strong and (mostly) silent Nick remained a question mark we wanted to learn more about.
Each of them had their own charm - and I'm still wavering over who to pick as my favourite. Don't make me choose!
After racing through the most impressive of back catalogues (personal highlights: Sherry, Beggin', Bye Bye Baby and Working My Way Back To You), the night finished on a high for the boys, with induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
If you're heading along to meet the Jersey Boys during their time in Sunderland, I dare you not to tap your feet, clap your hands and sing along to each and every number. Believe me, it's impossible.
*Jersey Boys is on at Sunderland Empire until Saturday, March 31.