Reviewed – 23rd August 2021
“There is a welcomed playfulness to the production”
Jersey Boys, the jukebox musical chronicling the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, first debuted on the West End in 2008 before closing nine years later. Its revival at the newly renovated Trafalgar Theatre marks the show’s exciting return to the stage, made even more poignant after the original opening night was further postponed due to Covid-19 concerns.
The show opens with the chart-topping French cover of Oh What a Night (Ces Soirées-La) to demonstrate the band’s incredible international appeal. Certainly, this should come as no surprise, seeing as the band has sold an estimated 100 million records worldwide and survived the so-called British Invasion.
The story of the quartet’s rise and fall is told from the perspective of all four band members, the different seasons (Fall, Winter etc.) flashing on a screen above the stage to demonstrate this perspective shift. Though such a format presented a more ‘well-rounded’ story of the group’s success, this did have a significant effect on the musical’s pacing with some scenes forgotten as quickly as they started.
This also led to some rather jarring tonal changes. The strangest perhaps was found at the end of the production where in the space of five minutes the audience mourns the death of Frankie’s daughter before jumping forward a decade to the band’s joyous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There is, simply put, too much history and character development to pack in to the two-and-a-half-hour show.
An impressive number of songs feature in the production but again we are unable to rest on any one scene for too long. The opening scenes are particularly fast-paced and almost discombobulating as we are shown the formation of the group. There is no concrete sense of how much time has passed between any given scene, and the occasional time stamp on the large screen would have been a helpful signpost for the audience.
The cast is phenomenal. The New Jersey accents are well executed though very occasionally border on comical especially when we are reminded of the group’s mob connections. Ben Joyce (making his West End debut) does an excellent job of delivering Valli’s iconic falsetto. His performance of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is particularly beautiful and Joyce was visibly moved at the audience’s ecstatic response to his rendition.
Adam Bailey and Karl James Wilson (playing singers Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi respectively) are incredibly likeable and Benjamin Yates infuses the band’s ringleader Tommy De Vito with a braggadocious energy. The concluding speeches for each band member really allow the cast to come into their own and one cannot help feeling emotional as they update the audience on their lives in the present day.
There is a welcomed playfulness to the production. A particularly amusing moment occurs when Gaudio is implored to “play the f***ing song” in reference to Can’t Take My Eyes Off You which at half-way through the second half was still yet to be played. This outburst generated raucous laugh from the audience who surely felt as though the show was articulating how they were feeling about hearing the iconic tune.
The choreography (Sergio Trujillo) is fantastic. The quartet and the various backing dancers are all perfectly synced with Joyce demonstrating some particularly impressive moves. Though not necessarily true to life, this did add a great pizazz to the performances of the more upbeat songs.
The sets (Klara Zieglerova) were relatively simple with props used more often than backdrops to convey a certain location. Some particularly impressive staging came in the form of the band performing as if on television. Facing a prop camera to the side of the stage, the front view shot of the band performing played on the screen above the stage, interspersed with presumably real clips of crowds at Four Season performances.
You would be hard-pressed not to enjoy this revival of the Jersey Boys. Though the production would benefit for slower pacing at some points, there is no shortage of excellent music, engaging story, and supremely talented cast.
Reviewed by Flora Doble
Photography by Mark Senior
Trafalgar Theatre until 2nd January
Reviewed by Flora this year: