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One of the reasons I can't bring myself to move away from London is my love of the theatre. I love everything about the West End and whether it's a musical or smaller, independent play I'm there at least once a month. Last week my mum and dad were visiting along with my auntie who hasn't been to London since I've lived there and my partner and I wanted to take her to a musical. She narrowed it down to a few shows and I managed to find a great deal and my dad kindly bought tickets for 5 of us to see Jersey Boys. The show follows the lives of the four men from New Jersey who went on to become The Four Seasons, one of the most popular and successful pop bands to ever come out of America. Jersey Boys has now been running in the West End for four years since it opened after its success on Broadway and is one of the most popular shows in London.
At the start of the show we meet Tommy DeVito who talks the audience through the beginnings of The Four Seasons. Tommy is a musician who wants to form a band as a way out of his inevitable future in crime. He originally forms The Lovers along with his brother and a friend but with various stints in prison, the group does not hit the big time. When Tommy hears 16 year old Frankie Castelluccio sing he encourages him to join the band along with new bassist Nick Massi and become their lead singer. The group starts as a trio but Tommy is convinced that they need a fourth, composer and musician, Bob Gaudio who was introduced to the band by their friend (and future Oscar winner) Joe Pesci! The rest is history! The show tells the story of their lives, their loves and how the band reforms several times, yet how the four original members of The Four Seasons remain loyal to each other and come together years later to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Tommy DeVito is portrayed by Jon Boydon who for me has the most authentic New Jersey accent and is my favourite character. In and out of jail, Tommy sees the band as a way of making money and getting out of New Jersey. He started the band and without him they would not have been successful, but he is caught up in criminal circles and owes a lot of money which makes him a liability. Jon Boydon is excellent in the role and for me was the stand out performer both times I have seen it. His singing voice is excellent, but it is his portrayal of Tommy's flawed character which is so compelling that he is likeable, even when he is treating his bandmates badly. Boydon has an extensive background in theatre
Pictures of Jersey Boys, West End
playing roles in Jesus Christ Superstar and recently completing a two year stint in We Will Rock You and it was evident that he was an accomplished actor as he was so believable in the role. Frankie Valli is the young trainee barber who is recruited by Tommy to join the band as the lead singer. Last time I saw the show the understudy was covering the fantastic Ryan Molloy so I couldn't wait to see him. Imagine my disbelief and horror this time when Jon Lee, formerly of S Club 7, walked out on stage! Some people may think it's strange that I can identify him but he has been doing the theatre rounds for a while now and I'd heard some good reviews so kept my fingers crossed that he wouldn't let me down! Anyway, I was shocked to find he had an incredible falsetto range and sang the songs perfectly! His voice wasn't the strongest but I was really impressed with how well he performed and all the notes he hit. I didn't think that Jon's acting was brilliant and therefore didn't connect with the character or care about what happened to him as much as the others!
Nick Massi is an old friend of Tommy's who he becomes the bass player in the band. When Tommy is sent to jail, he asks Nick to take Frankie under his wing and improve his singing voice. He is also the bass singer in the band and Eugene McCoy has the most wonderful voice for the deep parts of the vocal arrangements, which Nick always wrote for The Four Seasons. Eugene McCoy is absolutely amazing as solemn and quiet Nick who goes along with whatever Tommy suggests. He doesn't seem to enjoy the success and lifestyle as much as the others and often states jokingly that is going to go off and create his own band. He plays the role so flawlessly that I imagine McCoy is exactly the same in real life, although he does slip in and out of the accent when he's shouting!
The final member to join the band is Bob Gaudio, a young songwriter and musician who is introduced to the band by Joe Pesci! He immediately forms a close bond with Frankie and the two make a pact over a handshake to always split their profits from any song writing and performance deals, a deal which causes issues with the other members of the group. It is Gaudio who pens the song Sherry, which catapults The Four Seasons into the charts, and went on to write all of their subsequent songs. One of the highlights of the show for me is 'December 63 (Oh What A Night)' which unlike other songs which they perform as a band, Bob sings this the night about the night he loses his virginity. It might be cheesy but the whole audience erupted into laughter when Tommy walked over to sing the line "as I recall it ended much too soon"! Matthew Wycliffe who plays Bob is a great actor and singer and in my opinion is underused in the singing department!
The production features all of The Four Seasons big hits including Sherry, Big Girls Don't cry, Walk Like A Man and Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye). My favourite song and the one I wait for the whole time is December 63 (Oh What A Night). As I mentioned earlier, Bob Gaudio sings this on the night he loses his virginity and the whole thing is very funny but he really shows what an excellent singer he is! I was particularly excited when they sang Bye Bye Baby as I had no idea that it was a Frankie Valli song but the biggest treat is Frankie singing 'You're Just Too Good To Be True" as again, I had no idea they had written it! The audience went absolutely wild after Jon's excellent performance and I seem to remember it was the same last time.
Towards the start of the show as it describes the beginnings of the band, the songs features are not very well known although 'You're the Apple of my Eye' apparently charted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 62. It is not until their big break on The Ed Sullivan Show where they perform Sherry that the band really blows up. I loved how they did this in the show. The band performed the song in front of a huge camera, the projection from which was shown on a huge black and white cinema screen which looked like archive footage from the actual television show from the 60s! I loved it and thought this was a great touch and jazzed up a good, but quite ordinary stage set.
The dancing is nothing compared to the boy bands today, but I loved it! The marching on the spot and stepping forwards and backwards is so simple but so effective for the songs. It's all so stiff and proper and you just don't get that in the charts today! The vocal arrangements were brilliant and were kept exactly as Nick Massi wrote them 50 years ago. Eugene McCoy as Nick, although not the lead singer, bosses each arrangement with his excellent bass range and they really get the unique sound of The Four Seasons.
Where to get tickets and how much
Tickets can be bought in all the usual ways; Seetickets, Ticketmaster and on the Jersey Boys London website. The cheapest tickets are up in the grand circle and cost £20 tickets. The more expensive stalls tickets are really expensive at £67.50 tickets and the premier tickets (front two rows of the dress circle) are £85 which is ridiculous! However, I always have a look on lastminute.com to see if there are any offers or meal deals. I found a £40 meal deal which included a ticket of up to £45 in value and a main course and glass of wine at Kitchen Italia at Covent Garden! The food was quite nice and for £40 I couldn't complain about any of it, including our tickets which were on the front row of the grand circle.
The Prince Edward Theatre is in Soho, within easy walking distance of public transport including Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Tottenham Court Road underground stations. The theatre is in a perfect location for a night out with Chinatown a couple of roads away and the delights of Soho on the doorstep. It's right next to legendary London clubs G.A.Y and Ronnie Scott's; two very different nights out! It's one of the most exciting and fun places to be in London with a variety of pubs, bars, restaurants and the most diverse range of people you will ever find and lights everywhere!
What's so good about it
Jersey Boys has now been running for almost four years in London and six years on Broadway and shows no sign of slowing down. It is one of the London shows which commands a full audience every night and receives a standing ovation each time. Brilliant songs and a talented cast are generally what make any musical special and there are few in the West End which can compete with Jersey Boys in this department. The Four Seasons produced some of the most recognisable songs of the 1960s which have been covered around the world and used in films and adverts. There are very few people who would not the songs and even the younger audience would know 'December '63 Oh What a Night' (Forest Gump and others), 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' (10 Things I Hate About You) or 'Big Girls Don't Cry' (Dirty Dancing).
Musical theatre is one of my favourite things so there was very little chance I wouldn't like Jersey Boys when I went to see it. However, I was surprised at just how fantastic the cast were and especially Jon Lee in the role of Frankie. Who would have thought that the little lad with the blonde hair who looked like a child in S Club 7 would have such a wonderful falsetto range and the power to deliver Frankie Valli songs? Not me. His acting may not have been as great as the rest of the cast but it certainly didn't stop me from enjoying the show and the rest of our group loved it too.
A quote from Johnnie Walker from BBC 2 is displayed on the Jersey Boys website, "The best show you will ever see". Well, I'm not sure about that; I can name at least five West End shows that I prefer to Jersey Boys. However, it is a fantastic production, the cast are great, the music is wonderful and you will enjoy every second. Fully recommended for adults (but there is a lot of swearing in it so don't take children!). 4 out of 5 stars!