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The hugely successful musical Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical which tells the story of The Four Seasons (later Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons). It starts with the band getting together and struggling to settle on a name, takes them through their career, and the disintegration of the band, with Frankie becoming the main name and the Four Seasons becoming his backing band.

I went into it knowing next to nothing about the band, other than a few of their songs. Or so I thought – as it turned out, I knew more of their songs than I realised, I just hadn’t realised that these songs I had known for years were actually by the Four Seasons. I was also surprised by the backgrounds of the band – their music conjures up images of a group of clean cut young men, singing about love. In fact, DeVito was a compulsive gambler and both he and Massi spent time in prison. They also had mob connections, which they had to rely on from time to time.

The band are played by: Michael Watson as Frankie Valli; Simon Bailey as Tommy DeVito; Declan Egan as Bob Gaudio; and Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi. Each of them narrate a quarter of the show, which allows all the different characters to shine through and which also allows the story to be told from all four points of view. They were all excellent, and although I am trying to pick a favourite, I can’t!

Valli has an extremely distinctive voice, and Michael Watson did a superb job of recreating it, but all four of them contributed to the high energy performances. The supporting cast were also great, and although there were some sad parts of the story, the overall feeling that the audience were left with was one of joy. The audience clearly adored this show, and with good reason – everyone was clapping, singing or dancing along by the end.

Faultless in every way, this is a show I would love to see again and again and again. If you get chance to see it, go and see it. If you’ve already seen it, go see it again!!

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The word ‘legend’ is bandied about too frequently these days – I’ve seen it used to describe reality tv stars, YouTube ‘stars’ and all manner of others which in truth it should not be used for – but sometimes the word is entirely fitting and Bruce Springsteen is one of those people truly deserving of the title. Whether you like his music or not, his songs are familiar to all, for their stories of blue-collar working class families and their struggles, from the anti-Vietnam protest song Born in the USA, to the Oscar winning Streets of Philadelphia from the groundbreaking 1993 Tom Hanks film about AIDS.

Bruce’s autobiography is a joy to read – not only does he discuss his own working class, blue collar background, and his rise to success, he is also amazingly candid about his struggles with depression and anxiety. He talks with obvious love and gratitude about his wife Patti Scialfa and their three children, and with open-ness about his troubled relationship with his father, who nonetheless he loved and loves very deeply.

His passion for his craft comes through on every page (no surprise to anyone who has listened to his music), as well as his enduring friendships with the many people who he has played with and alongside. I loved that he was starstruck, even at the height of his own success, when meeting the Rolling Stones!

Again – this will be no surprise for anyone who listens to Bruce’s lyrics – but he is a very talented author, likeable and amusing, and unapologetic…not that he has anything to be apologetic about. I always felt that Bruce was one of the good guys, and this book reinforces that view.

If you are a fan of Bruce Springsteen, or if you just really like reading autobiographies, I highly recommend this one.

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Zach Braff is Andrew Largeman, a tv actor who has lived in LA and had little to do with his family for nine years.  However, when his father calls to tell him that his mother has died unexpectedly, Andrew has to go back to New Jersey for the funeral. While there, he catches up with old friends, and more importantly meets a girl named Sam (Natalie Portman) who is quirky, cute and more alive and vital than Andrew can ever imagine he or his friends being.

While he is in New Jersey, trying to avoid spending time with his father (who is also his psychiatrist) and attempting to work out where he is headed in life, Andrew confronts some painful memories of his past, and is reminded that only by letting go of who we once were can we decide who we truly want to be.  Meanwhile, Sam shows him that despite the obstacles people face, they can still live in the here and now, and have fun.

Ultimately, this is a film about redemption and love.  Zach Braff is impressive and manages to shake off his JD character from ‘Scrubs’ very well.  (He also wrote and directed the movie.)  Natalie Portman is cute as a button, and Peter Sarsgaard is excellent as Andrew’s friend, the gravedigger Mark.

There were a lot less laughs than I thought there would be – this is not a comedy, although there are moments of gentle humour.  But it’s a sweet film, with lots of touching moments and two main characters who you can’t help rooting for.

Year of release: 2004

Director: Zach Braff

Writer: Zach Braff

Main cast: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard

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