Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jersey Boys

Directed by- Des Mcanuff
Book by- Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Composer- Bob Gaudio
Lyricist- Bob Crewe
Choreographer- Sergio Trujillo
Starring: Ryan Molloy, Jon Boydon, Matthew Wycliffe, Eugene McCoy, Jon Lee, Wayne Smith, Mark Isherwood, Tom Oakley, Michael Conway, Carl Au, Charlie Bull, Mark Carroll, Chris Gardner, Lucinda Gill, Lauren Hall, Trina Hill, Paul Iveson, Stuart Milligan, Jake Samuels, Jo Servi, Ben Wheeler, Rachael Wooding.

Current London cast, L-R: Eugene McCoy, Ryan Molloy, Matthew Wycliffe, Jon Boydon. Photo from the Jersey Boys London website.

David Beckham has seen it 10 times, Strictly Come Dancing’s Natalie Lowe has seen it 6 times, I myself have seen it 3 times, Cilla Black has seen it at least twice, and I have seen on Facebook and Twitter a few people mention that they have just watched their 100th performance.
I am talking, as always, about the West End’s Jersey Boys- the story of the rise to fame of the rock n’ roll group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I can almost guarantee that you’ve heard of them, if not (my condolences), it is more than likely that you will recognise at least one of their songs; you just would not have primarily attributed it to them. A popular reaction to this show, aside from ‘that was incredible’, is ‘I had no idea they wrote that song!’ Well believe it or not, with the exception of the first couple of toe tapping tunes, all of the songs featured in this show can be traced back to the writing talents of one Bob Gaudio, who, as well as being an original and vital Four Seasons member, was also involved in the production of this multi award winning musical.
Originally opening on Broadway in 2005, Jersey Boys exudes sophistication, charm, and swagger, while opening your eyes to nitty-grity 1960’s Belville, New Jersey- a town which offers no easy life for those who reside there. Despite all they were faced with, four young guys from the mean streets came together and created pure magic; Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons became one of the greatest pop sensations in music history. Their achievements were astonishing, one of the most prominent being their induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and yet no one could have predicted it considering at least of half of the band members were in and out of jail like it was a supermarket because of affiliations with tough gangs. After seeing this show, the names Frankie, Bob, Tommy, and Nick will make a permanent mark on your memory.
Each and every cast member in the London version deserves recognition for their talent. It’s common to begin with the leads, but I’d first like to highlight the hard work of the three female cast members, who between them take on around fifty roles throughout the show.  Although playing minor characters, if they came onto the stage and accidentally portrayed the wrong personality, it could affect and/or ruin the whole dynamic of the scene, so their ability to take on all those parts and successfully act out such a wide range of characteristics just shows how talented they are. The other swing members also show this diversity and I congratulate them all as they do make the show what it is.
Now for the four male leads. I have seen both Ryan Molloy and Jon Lee as Frankie Valli, and both are fantastic and play the role in their own way, so it is worth catching both of them in the part if you decide to see it more than once (which I would be willing to put money on that you will). Tom Oakley and Michael Conway have also played the ‘V-man’ and I’ve been told they are also ones to watch, although I have not yet had the pleasure. There is just something about Ryan’s portrayal that is breath-taking, and the fact that a large proportion of female audience members are left swooning over him does not hurt either. His falsetto is pitch perfect, and he is as believable as 16 year old Frankie as he is as 30 something year old Frankie. He was definitely meant to play this role, and I imagine the casting directors are aware their lucky stars were in line when they found him.
Next we have Jon Boydon who has absolute control over the part of Tommy DeVito; the guy who likes to take the credit for bringing the band together. He is slick, and he is clever in many ways, but like a lot of human beings he makes mistakes, some graver than others. Jon, who has recently released a solo album that I would also recommend, has a powerful and charismatic voice, and I don’t think even the meanest critics could find much fault with his acting ability no matter how hard they may try. Eugene McCoy offers a lot of humour to the show as the harmony genius Nick Massi- this guy is probably like someone you know who usually doesn’t say much or complain often but, when they do say something, it’s memorable for one reason or another. Eugene’s delivery of lines was one of my favourite elements of the show and he does have a unique tone to his singing voice that you can’t get from lessons. Lastly we have Matt Wycliffe as Bob Gaudio, without whom the simple yet stunningly catchy melodies of hits such as Oh what a night, Sherry and Can’t take my eyes off of you would not exist. Matt is no stranger to portraying extremely successful singer/songwriters as he previously took on the role of Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story. Perhaps the most innocent of the group members, Bob is charming, talented, and you adore him for the songs he brought into this world. Matt is as close to perfect for this role as anyone can get- I could listen to his suave singing all day, and his cheeky grin is utterly endearing.
Jersey Boys has since been shown around the world with various casts, including places such as Las Vegas, New Zealand, and Australia, and is still going strong in both New York and London. I cannot recommend this show enough; not only will the music blow you away, the story is fascinating and inspiring. Unlike a lot of musicals, where the characters just sing their lives to you as though it is the norm and because it is expected from the genre, in this show you get to find out the backstory of the songs; you find out how the lyrics came to be, what the songs are really about, and with this they hit you emotionally as well as make you want to get up out of your chair and claim the aisle as your dance floor. It is, in a word, sensational.  Learn more and get yourself a ticket here-

Photo from the Jersey Boys London website
NB: Don’t be shy of the seats in the bottom left hand corner of the seating plan; they are usually green coloured and cost around £45. The ticket website says that their view is restricted due to set, however I have sat in seats E3 and E4 on my last two visits, and the total time of action that you are unable to see due to set obstruction is only around ten seconds. If you are on a budget I would suggest these seats (rows E and F especially)- the majority of the show happens centre stage and they do provide a great view, yet you’re paying around £20 less than the person sat two seats to your left. < this is not the London cast, but I like this trailer!

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