Jersey Boys review – Four Seasons story still hits all the high notes

If you’re not a Four Seasons aficionado, this is a show full of “Oh, did they write that?!” moments, from Beggin’ to December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) – the sound of 70s nights up and down provincial England, a long way from the housing projects of 1950s New Jersey where the story all starts.

Some jukebox musicals treat the songs as a jumping off point for fantasy. Jersey Boys – returning to the West End, where it first ran from 2008 to 2017 – is the opposite, just the band’s own story, soundtracked by the songs as Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe wrote them. Similarly straightforward is the single scaffold-style set; the tight on-the-spot choreography, with its rigid-backed stomp and click; the pithy script (co-written by Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman). It works because it’s a good story, of mob connections, bad debts, prison spells, soaring success and the band imploding.

Each band member directly addresses the audience: Tommy De Vito (Benjamin Yates), the Jersey cliche unable to resist a grift; Gaudio (a very likeable Adam Bailey) the clean-cut kid who quotes TS Eliot; and the enigmatic Nick Massi (Karl James Wilson) a man who irons his shirts twice and writes a killer vocal arrangement.

Their rise comes off the back of a whole lot of graft, gig after gig, scenes rolling by at a pace. The show’s new Frankie Valli, Ben Joyce, who only graduated from drama school this summer, is on point with that distinctive nasal falsetto, heading up to helium territory, although softness creeps in on some solo numbers – his Moody’s Mood for Love is a beaut. As time wears on and the touring becomes relentless, Joyce’s characterisation moves towards desperation.

Related: Tommy DeVito: Four Seasons founding member dies of Covid aged 92

What’s particular about the band is the dissonance between the tender harmonies and the cold shell of these tough guys in suits. The book touches on the singers’ forgotten families back home but the emotional climax, which comes in the form of a phone call, doesn’t quite make the bottom fall out of your world. The momentum is all in the music, pushed hard in the band’s charge towards fame and beyond. Jersey Boys is a musical that efficiently delivers a cracking story and a seemingly endless catalogue of hit songs.