Get ready – Jersey Boys return to Manchester

DALTON Wood admits he has big shoes to fill playing Tommy DeVito in the hit musical Jersey Boys which arrives at the Manchester Opera House next week.

The show is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, a vocal group whose intricate harmonies were unlike anything before or since. It’s a powerful, impactful, and at times moving production, which Dalton says is the secret to the award-winning series’ enduring success.

“Yeah, there are all the amazing songs that everyone knows, but the story behind it is just amazing,” he said. “Rather than being a musical jukebox, this is a biopic, we’re telling the story of this band and the world they grew up in.”

Tommy DeVito founded the band which enjoyed huge successes including Walk Like A Man, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Rag Doll, but at the height of the band’s success he had to walk away due to gambling debts got out of hand and brought him into conflict with the rest of the group.

“Tommy was a great character,” Dalton said. “He saw himself as a bit of a gangster figure and that makes him great to play.

“You can get on stage and say ‘bang – here I am.’ you want to listen”.

Tommy DeVito died last year after contracting Covid aged 92.

“We had people around us when we were working on the show who knew Tommy,” Dalton said. “To be able to ask them how he was was amazing.”

Jersey Boys is full of songs, but they are there to complete the story being told.

“We never do a full song,” Dalton said, “and they’re done as part of the story. It’s so smart the way the songs fit into the storyline. We’re either in the studio or in concert when we sing. It’s not staged in that sense, there’s a natural flow.

“It means the audience is involved throughout and we take them with us on the band’s journey.”

Anyone expecting a simple, bubbly, carefree evening at the theater might think again. Jersey Boys has real depth and is quite dark at times in complete contrast to the beautiful songs.

“When you hear the story of how the band came into being and what it was like when they were growing up, it’s fascinating. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always legit. There were some bad things along the way. It’s crazy,” Dalton said.

One of the keys to the show’s success is the convincing New Jersey accents adopted by the actors. Offstage, Dalton’s Yorkshire accent – he grew up in Haworth – is easily recognizable, but as Tommy he is Jersey through and through.

“The danger is that you exaggerate too much and the accent can become comical,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, there are some very funny moments in the show but we’re telling a true story and everything has to be authentic.

“We worked with a dialect coach in rehearsal. I listened to some of the early recordings we made and my accent really developed and improved so much.

Then there are the musical numbers, with a live band on stage.

“It’s real to have the musicians on stage,” Dalton said. “We had to work so hard on the harmonies. Everything is live so there are no hiding places.

This current tour has taken the cast around the UK all year and often people will come to see it multiple times.

“Why wouldn’t you? said Dalton. “It’s phenomenal. It’s all in the writing. Sometimes you can watch a show and there’s a moment where you might think “OK, I’m kinda bored now” and then it picks up. With this show, it continues; it doesn’t slow down and that’s what keeps you so engaged.

Dalton received standing ovations every night, giving a little taste of what it must have been like to be part of the Four Seasons.

“It’s a phenomenal feeling,” he said. “That’s why we do it; you want to entertain and please people. I don’t think I will ever be able to understand what it must have been like to be part of this band. That’s all I want for me, it’s amazing. I’m too musical to be a rock star!

Jersey Boys, Manchester Opera House, from Tuesday October 18 to Saturday October 29. Details at www.atgtickets.com

Helen J. Jimenez