The Jersey Boys. It’s a title the British have grown to acknowledge, mostly due to the prominence of four men in matching red tailored jackets who often appear on our television screens and perform familiar songs from the sixties and seventies. Surprisingly, regardless of this television exposure, many people are still unsure of what Jersey Boys has to offer. Is it merely a tribute act? Is Jersey Boys a concert of Frankie Valli hits? Of course, the answer is no. Whilst Jersey Boys is teeming with hits by The Four Seasons, it also tells the story of the original Four Seasons: Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi, Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli. The musical premiered at director Des McAnuff’s La Jolla Playhouse in 2005; the London production opened in 2008 and continuously enjoys positive responses from critics and public alike.
Jersey Boys details the journey of The Four Seasons from “four guys under a street lamp” to entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their story is told through the alternating narratives of each member of The Four Seasons echoing Tommy’s early statement: “You ask four guys, you get four different versions.” The personal nature of the narratives mean that band members’ personal achievements and struggles are portrayed in parallel to that of The Four Seasons.
The pre-show set up is a West Side Story affair of open stairs, bridge balconies and cages. Scene changes are consistently slick and effective: a single street lamp; a television studio; a bowling alley complete with girls bowling into the wings. Most scenery alterations are made by cast members pushing items to and from the stage, similar to the set up recently employed in the UK tour of Nine to Five. Although Nine to Five received criticism for such conduct, Jersey Boys‘ changes are executed with such precision that demands respect.
Michael Watson, the alternative Frankie Valli, is a strong performer, delivering with a contagious energy and enthusiasm. His vocals consistently hit the mark. The cast continues with admirable performances from Jon Boydon, Matt Nalton and Edd Post as Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio respectively, the latter’s performance standing out as the most effective. The supporting roles give ensemble members plenty of opportunities to shine – which they do.
Jersey Boys may fall under the often shunned category of ‘jukebox musical’ however no aspect of this show should be ignored. Jersey Boys is a night of history with plenty of great songs that keep your toes tapping and refuse to leave your brain even after you’ve left the theatre.