Note: Jersey Boys was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe.
I couldn’t think of a better venue for Jersey Boys than the Prince Edward Theatre on Old Compton Street in London. What a theatre! It’s simple on the exterior… nice clean lines. It has a patio above the entrance. What a cool feature. The foyer is posh looking… like stepping back in time – a perfect backdrop for Jersey Boys. I remember walking down these stylish winding stairs through the bar into the Stalls area and it’s like ‘wow’. I must say, out of all the theatres I’ve been to thus far, this is the grandest one yet. It is magnificent and regal. The ceiling seemed so high and the decor even extended to the ceiling with a vine / leaf cut out letting the lights shine through. The theatre is beautifully done in red tones and gold. The seats are very comfortable and plush. Delfont Mackintosh has outdone themselves. I must say it was the most comfortable theatre temperature-wise especially on a hot summer night. We sat central in Row N of the stalls… the best view. I don’t think there is any bad view there though… it’s wide open. Staff were terrific, friendly and helpful. One young man took the time to ask an elderly lady in the row in front of us if she was comfortable… if she needed anything. That was very thoughtful.
Now on with the show… and what a show it was! It’s a true story about four boys from Jersey who experienced life together as one of the most famous musical groups of the times. And while it is most definitely about the lives and successes (and failures) of a musical group, it really highlights the major role of Frankie Valli. While Tommy seemed to be the force behind the group, Frankie was the leader. It was a historical look in time. I had heard of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons and knew their music but I didn’t know their trial and tribulations, their losses and their successes, their ups and downs. You get to see the story behind the boys from Jersey and it is an interesting one. I was surprised at the honesty of it as it looked at prison, gambling, drinking, infidelity, drugs and first times. I remember thinking it was a tough neighborhood they group up in. Despite it all, you can’t help but get pulled in especially with the terrific music that they produced. And the story was told in an unique fashion.
Fifty plus years on and people still know their sound… people still love their music. Thank goodness for the Musical ‘Jersey Boys’ so it can be introduced to the generations to come. And bravo that Frankie Valli is still performing… something he has always loved and that was of great importance to him. The group has always credited the American public for their success (i.e. they couldn’t do it on their own). Speaking of future generations, it was nice to see some young people in the row in front of us obviously enjoying the music that their parents were intent on sharing with them.
The boys lived by some codes: don’t lie to your mother, don’t tell the truth to your wife, and don’t cross the line with your best friend’s gal. They also believed in the importance not to forget where you come from. And through one of the most trying times of Frankie’s life… the death of his daughter, Francine, at the young age of 22… he remembered what his mother had said, ‘This too shall pass’. The good and the bad both shall pass.
The show features all the classic hits such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye), Working My Way Back To You, Walk Like A Man, December 1963 (Oh What A Night), Rag Doll and more. You will be tapping your toes, clapping your hands, and singing along. And at the very end, you will be waiting for them to come back for an encore not wanting the night to end.
The Jersey accents were perfect! I was amazed that the actors could sound so authentic as it is a different accent. And there was Italian in it as well. The main characters are played by the following: Ryan Molloy (Frankie Valli), Stephen Ashfield (Bob Gaudio), Glenn Carter (Tommy DeVito), and Philip Bulcock (Nick Massi). Although the performance I attended, I think there may have been some alternates… kudos to all the actors for brilliant performances and of course, the band/orchestra.
Tommy (DeVito) ended up in Vegas. Bobby (Gaudio) ended up in Nashville on a riverboat with his family. For Nicky (Massi), family ended up being more important to him. Frankie (Valli) continues to perform… because the first time they made that sound, the first time they met… that’s what it’s all about to him. Family has also become more important to him.
Catch a bit of history… catch a bit of nostalgia… let yourself get enthralled in the fabulous music. Go see Jersey Boys today!
by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)