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.
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”.