Theatre: Jersey Boys


From the Tony Awards 2006

I caught Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre Monday night. I saw it with Grant and we must have looked like a right pair of luvvies as a lady in front of us from Cincinnati asked us if we get to the theatre all the time living in London. I wasn't quite sure if that was a question asking us whether we liked musical theatre. Whatever the line of questioning was, I wasn't going to admit that I had just bought on DVD Show Business. Besides it had been over a week since I had last been to a theatre. And that was fringe theatre...

Jersey Boys - a show about some workin' class boys from New Jersey makin' good - was was all class. Rather than the usual trick of being a juke box of hits strung together for an unbelievable story, or weaving a string of b-side songs into a nights entertainment because that is all the rights that were available, this show tells the story of the boys rise to fame using their music. Their story moves at breakneck speed and has been very cleverly put together. Songs spin into drama about the creative process that spun into new songs spinning into more drama about paying back mob loans. It felt like Dreamgirls meets The Sopranos... But by the end of it you felt like you knew something about each of these boys.

Drama aside, even more fascinating was what happened when the show gave the audience the recognisable music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The first time it occurred was half way through the first act in the build up to the song "Sherry". Surrounded by baby boomers, as the song started there was this shock wave of audience excitement that rippled across the theatre. It was like we were taking part in some sort of phenomena channelling a collective experience of the 1960s. As that was a little before my time, I was a bit taken aback by this... Music always takes me back to when I first heard it, and I was assuming that this audience had a bit longer to travel back than some eighties retro flick like Dirty Dancing... Just as well the tunes were so easy to groove to otherwise there could have been quite an emotional mess in the Prince Edward Theatre...

It was easy to forget it also wasn't the Four Seasons on stage but a talented group of young(ish) actors and a rather amplified band. There seemed to be a great chemistry onstage with the actors and Ryan Molloy as Franki Valli and Stephen Ashfield as Bob Gaudio were particularly memorable. When songs you have heard many times before seem new and fresh like "December 1963 (Oh what a night)" you know something good is going on.

The only thing that had me perplexed all evening was the set. It was a mish mash of styles and almost as hideous as the one in Thoroughly Modern Millie. I could appreciate that it was to give the show the backstage / gritty / Jersey look, but surely we could have something executed a little bit more elegantly. Oh perhaps nowadays one should just be glad to have seen a decent new show, well made and performed, that hasn't had to rely on BBC advertorial to pull in the punters... Good tickets available at the usual outlets.

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