Jersey Boys tells the story of the world renowned band Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – following the boys through the many ups, downs and in-betweens from singing under a street lamp in 1960 to performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 30 years later. It’s one of my all time favourite musicals but I left this production feeling a little bit let down. Here’s why.
One of the things I love about Jersey Boys is the narration. Each of the 4 Seasons tells part of the story from their point of view, speaking directly to the audience like we’re part of the action. These interludes are the glue which holds the story together and they provide slick, smooth and often comedic transitions between scenes. These were mostly well done but unfortunately, some of these moments went a-miss. The sound was completely off and I think this hugely affected my enjoyment. It was almost as if the sound technicians couldn’t keep up with the quick transitions from song to speech. I often found myself straining to hear speech over orchestration and consequently chunks of story were missed and a lot of the humour was lost. Jokes that usually receive huge laughs fell completely flat which was a shame to see.
On a more positive note, the cast were excellent. The musical numbers which are obviously a huge draw to this production were brilliant and each of the 4 Seasons gave gorgeous vocals and stylish dance moves. Simon Bailey played Tommy Devito and I enjoyed his performance. I felt that he really embodied his character and interacted exceptionally well with the audience but I just needed him to slow down and leave a few dramatic pauses to really sell those narratives. Michael Watson played Frankie Valli with stunning vocals and likability but again, the narratives felt rushed. I thoroughly enjoyed Karl James Wilson in the role of Nick Massi and was particularly impressed with James Winter’s performance in the role of Bob Gaudio – a masterclass in storytelling from these two, they really nailed it. Winter takes the MVP.
My final gripe has to be the projection. It was completely out of time and therefore distracting, meaning the scenes in which it was used it would have been better off without it. Disappointing as this is an excellent effect when done well.
Although many aspects of this performance fell short of expectations, I did enjoy the evening. The cast gave brilliant performances and the music will always be a winner. Act 2 saw a definite improvement from act one and I was on my feet dancing to the finale. For fans of the music, I’d still recommend it. With a few small tweaks – this touring production could be exceptional. It feels like a spaghetti bolognese thats not been seasoned quite right – all the right ingredients are there, it just needs finessing.
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*Production images by Brinkhoff Mögenburg