Sunderland actor heads home to wow the crowds in Jersey Boys at Empire theatre

Sunderland actor Michael Pickering will be hitting the high note as Frankie Valli when hit musical Jersey Boys walks its way back to Wearside.

The successful musical theatre star has appeared on the Empire stage a number of times, and is now returning as one quarter of the Jersey Boys, who bring to life the highs and lows of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

Although Michael has appeared in a string of West End hits, including Wicked, Grease, Mamma Mia and Jesus Christ Superstar, appearing on his home city stage is always special for the former Thornhill School pupil.

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Speaking about what people can expect from the musical, which runs at the Empire from March 22 to April 2, he said: “It’s one of those shows where if someone says ‘My husband won’t come see a musical’ this is the one you bring them to because they’re going to love musicals after seeing it.

Michael Pickering is heading home in Jersey Boys

"Sometimes men get dragged along to it and they leave going ‘Oh my God that was amazing’. It’s a wonderful night out. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a more talented cast and crew so they can expect one of the most wonderful performances from one of the most talented teams I’ve ever worked with.”

Appearing alongside Michael, who grew up in Washington, is Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi, Blair Gibson as Bob Gaudio and Dalton Wood as Tommy DeVito, who work their way through hits such as Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December, 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, My Eyes Adored You, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, Fallen Angel, Rag Doll and Who Loves You.

Michael said it’s the kind of show people are craving post-lockdown.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s got such a great story, everyone loves the music, and it kind of relates to the world we’re living in at the moment because the Four Seasons went through such hard times yet they kept going. It’s an inspiring story and we all need that at the moment.”

West End actor Michael Pickering is heading home on tour

On being back on the road, the actor, who now lives in Dartford, said: “Just being able to get on a train or drive a car somewhere is great within itself, given the fact we weren’t able to go anywhere for so long, but for me it’s more about the team I travel with and I couldn’t have hoped for a better team.

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"It honestly feels like nothing can stop us. Obviously Covid is still out there but there’s nothing we can’t conquer. That feeling makes touring a delight.”

Michael is one in a number of successful actors to have attended Thornhill School, which has also helped foster the careers of West End actor Gary Watson, known for his roles in Les Miserables, Matilda the Musical, Strictly Ballroom and more, and Ben Foster who, as well as winning ITV’s Superstar, has played the lead role in Phantom of the Opera.

This week, another Sunderland actor is gracing the Empire stage.

The cast of Jersey Boys. Photo credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg
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*Jersey Boys plays Sunderland Empire from March 22 to April 2, 2022. Tickets priced from £13 from 0844 871 7615

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Michael plays Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys
LtoR Dalton Wood, Michael Pickering, Blair Gibson, Lewis Griffiths in Jersey Boys UK & Ireland Tour, credit Birgit + Ralf Brinkhoff.