Big Girls Don’t Cry
Lyric Theatre, London
Reviewer: Catherine Usher
Celebrating a decade of the successful tribute concert show, Big Girls Don’t Cry appeared in the West End for one night only.
Obviously comparisons will be drawn with the musical and subsequent film, Jersey Boys, but although the music is the same, the tone of the show is completely different.
Far from telling the story of the how the original band rose and fell, Big Girls Don’t Cry focuses on their highs, presenting their ultimate gig packed with all the hits, including Frankie Valli’s solo work.
As Valli, Lee Matthews not only reproduces the singer’s distinctive vocals with apparent ease, he also injects humour and warmth into his role, relishing his leading man status. The way the performers banter on stage as if they really are The Four Seasons, is captured so well and so naturally that it’s almost under-appreciated. Their conviction in bringing the band to life is tremendous.
Bradley Clarkson as Nick Massi, David Hinton-Gale as Bob Gaudio and Liam Lakin as Tommy DeVito complete the line-up and each bring their own element to the show – Massi is the impressive base, Gaudio is the brains and DeVito is the flirt. They stay in character as they descend into the audience and single out one brave soul to join in a performance, chatting and joking with confidence and charisma.
There is some narration to the proceedings, but it is subtle, contrasting sharply with the slick and flashy choreography. The showman-like, co-ordinated dancing really defines the era, accentuating the classic hits such as Big Girls Don’t Cry, Working My Way Back To You, Walk Like A Man and December 1963 (Oh, What A Night).
Valli’s solo work is also explored, such as the romantic My Eyes Adored You, the exquisite Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and the disco classic Grease. Another highlight of the show comes in the form of an excellent a cappella version of Blue Moon. A rendition of one of the band’s early song Peanuts, demonstrates just how far they developed in terms of lyrics, while songs about girls – C’mon Marianne, Ronnie and Sherry – prove very popular.
Produced by Jack and Cheryl Applebaum, this is a show that could clearly carry on for another decade. While the nostalgia for the band and the era is so great and the talent (both in terms of the singers and the live band) is so plentiful, it’s in the perfect shape to keep on running.
Big Girls Don’t Cry is touring until December 1. For details see www.eastcoastboys.biz