Review – Jersey Boys, Prince Edward Theatre, London

Monday 18 August 2008

Musical theatre die-hard Steve on Broadway had warned the Whingers off it.

But Paul in London was pretty impressed.

On the other hand Lyn Gardner awarded it a paltry 2 stars.

But then again Daily Telegraph critic Charles Spencer is splashed over the top of the posters dubbing it “Phenomenal” (but then the Telegraph are “proud media partners of Jersey Boys. Not, of course, that the Whingers are suggesting any partisanship).

Anyway, all very confusing.

The Whingers had had absolutely no interest in seeing Jersey Boys when it initially opened. But what with everyone else being in Edinburgh and – as Nicholas de Jongh recently grumbled – virtually everything else being a song and dance show – it became something of a Hobson’s choice (Now why not revive that? When was the last time a story about a gifted but unappreciated shoemaker graced the West End stage?).

Anyway, a Metro offer* gave the Whingers the chance of seeing it for £20 (as opposed to £60) and with raves from many quarters the lure of finding out what all the fuss was about proved – if not exactly irresistible – then mildly intriguing.

Phil was never really partial to Frankie Valli‘s falsetto warblings and one of their hits “Bye Bye Baby” brought back unpleasant memories of the Bay City Rollers 1975 cover version.

Andrew – who likes a good bargain as his Oxfam wardrobe testifies – took some persuading even at these knock-down prices. It takes a lot to get Andrew to a “juke box musical”, a phrase he is seemingly unable to utter without sniffing it.

So when the opening chords of “Ces Soirées-La” (a French “hip ‘n’ hop” version of “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” apparently) nearly blasted the Whingers out of their seats with a booming bass that made their seats shake the Whingers looked at each other in alarm. This clearly was a show where Andrew wouldn’t be settling in for his customary snooze.

But their Row E stalls seats afforded more leg room than Andrew would ever need so if a hasty exit proved necessary they would be able to exeunt this with little disturbance.

Still, a hasty exit it nearly was as the audience were encouraged to clap along which is always a bad sign.

And for the first 3O minutes or so things didn’t getting much better. Glenn Carter‘s Nick Massani Tommy De Vito Nick  (one of Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons) was narrating the “rags-to-rock-to riches tale of four boys working their way from the streets of New Jersey to the heights of international pop-stardom”. The book by Rick Elice and Academy Award winning Marshall Brickman (one of Woody Allen’s writing collaborators although the evidence here suggests this was on his later films rather than the early classics) was lame and the whole thing felt rather flat.

Worse still, the metal scaffolding style set with chain link fencing looked like an rejected design from West Side Story and the poorly pastiched Roy Lichtenstein graphics on screens failed to summon up any suggestion of class. The Whingers had recently fallen hook, line and sinker for a performer named after a pizza (Lesli Margherita in Zorro) but things weren’t looking so hot for The Four Seasons.

What they hadn’t banked on was the incredible song-writing talent of Bob Gaudio.

Gaudio’s hits include “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” two things Phil’s been entreating Andrew to observe for years (especially after Andrew’s recent lacrimatory leanings at the Cadogan Hall). Even better he penned “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” and the utterly brilliant (and the century’s fifth most performed song, according to the programme) “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” – sentiments which are coincidentally the exact opposite of the Whingers’ feelings for each other. So – despite themselves – in the face of such songs they were powerless and the Whingers reluctantly began to enjoy themselves.

If we’re pushed to give credit where it’s due then we must also pay tribute to the musical talent of all four leads.

“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” certainly applies to Ryan Molloy (who incidentally replaced Holly Johnson as the lead singer in Frankie Goes to Hollywood) who as Frankie Valli performs charismatically and sings the falsetto perfectly; no wonder he doesn’t perform at “certain performances”.

Stephen Ashfield, Philip Bulcock, and Glenn Carter are equally impressive as the Four Three Other Seasons (Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito respectively). The singing is great, the harmonies sublime and the energy invigorating. In a masterstroke of genius rarely seen in West End musicals these days the sound balance actually favours the singers over the band (although a bit of tweaking is still required for some of Molloy’s numbers).

And how many musicals feature a portrayal of Hollywood star Joe Pesci? Apparently one of the producers of Jersey Boys, he claims to have been around in the formative days of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons.

Anyway, for the Whingers it was the third standing ovation in a week which is pretty good going. The London equivalent of the Bridge and Tunnel brigade were lapping it up and the Whingers felt strangely warmly disposed towards the whole thing.

It’s not a great play, it’s not a great musical but the music is profoundly brilliant and only someone with a heart more stony than those possessed by the Whingers could possibly give it less than three stars. Let’s just leave it at that.

And it has inspired the Whingers to develop their own sewing box musical telling the “rags-to-Rioja tale of two boys working their way from the avenues of Kentish Town and Vauxhall to the heights of interminable self-delusion”:


*Mon to Thursday performances tickets available from 10am on the day for £20 (plus booking fee) normally up to £60. Call 0844 482 5152 and quote “Metro”.


15 Responses to “Review – Jersey Boys, Prince Edward Theatre, London”

  1. City Slicker Says:

    Couldnt agree more. I felt much the same. Really enjoyed the songs in that Frankie & Johnny kind of way.

    Hope to see you guys soon!


  2. webcowgirl Says:

    I am just not convinced.

  3. Baz B Says:

    Glad you guys finally got to see J Boys.I’m a big fan of the show,the cast and the songs.You should catch it on Broadway,the home crowd really gets the jokes,the show’s, not yours.Keep up the good work.BB

  4. Paul Says:

    Guys glad you got to see it at last (not at least because I suspect Phil wanted to see it all along)…

    I really liked this show (not just was pretty impressed). And while the book and music did do weird things to the baby boomers in the audience, the whole cast (notwithstanding the missing jersey accents) was great. And unlike most jukebox musicals the songs at least bore some relevance to the story!

    Also Marshall Brickman wrote with Woody on Annie Hall and Manhattan Murder Mystery…

  5. Mama Rose Says:

    Glenn Carter plays Tommy DeVito, not Nick Massi (and there is no Massani, BTW).

  6. Phillygalg Says:

    I don’t care what any critic or reviewer says about this show (especailly when they can’t even get characters names correct). I have seen the show 8 times here in the US and once in London. I am going to see the show in NY in December. I will then try to see it at every opportunity. It makes me feel great. I come away with a huge smile. The music and story are tops. Sour grapes to all you neighsayers who can’t relax and enjoy. Here’s to “Jersey Boys” – it is a world phenom.

  7. Mama Rose Says:

    You’d probably care if it was positive, though.

  8. Jay Says:

    All the chorus do it carry chairs on and off stage, wonder if they get stagehand wages.

  9. Ummmm. We’re confused. This is a GOOD review by our standards. More enthusiastic and fewer errors.

  10. Josh Says:

    The magnificence of your little Olympics graphic makes up for the fact that you haven’t posted a new review in AGES.

  11. Mark I Says:

    Yeah, whingers, stop saying “neigh”! (especailly about this world phenom.)


  12. Mary Says:

    I have seen the Jersey boys 36 times since it opened
    and i think it is a brilliant show. And i have tickets to see it
    twice again next week. what is there not to like it’s such a feel
    good show

  13. Colin Says:

    I saw the show when it opened in New York, with (as a conservative estimate) a two-thirds New Jersey crowd, and had the greatest time. Am going to see it again in Vegas, where it has reputedly phenomenal singers. I HATE karaoke kinda musicals as a rule, but this one really delivers.


    It was amazing im seeing it again on the 3/1/09 Front Row

    And I Think When Ryan Molloy Leaves the show will go down hill because he is amazing and he going to get big if he leaves i reckon he should go on to be Corny Collins In Hairspray Hmmmmm i don’t know could happen.

    Great Show 10/10 5 Stars *****

    Amazing Get Your Tickets Now!


  15. Mary Says:

    I agree with Daniel it is a great show but hopefully it wont go downhill when Ryan leaves, i go to the show with my friends all the time and out of the 10 of us there is only two of us
    ( and im one of them) who like’s ryan best the others are split between Scott ( alternate Frankie) and Jye (understudy Frankie) which im surprised by because in my eyes Ryan is the
    best by far. But the other two Frankies have a really big fan base.
    Brilliant show miss it at your peril

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