12 February 2018 (released)
14 February 2018
“New Jersey Nights” at Windsor Theatre was a warming, upbeat treat for a cold, damp Monday night in February. Unlike the similar “Jersey Boys”, this isn’t a dramatic retelling of the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, it is a showcase of their songs set to great dance routines.
The set opens with dancers moving to the beats of “Oh What a night”, getting us ready for an evening of bright, fun entertainment. The four vocalists harmonise beautifully together, each taking turns to lead us through their large repertoire of familiar songs including ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ and ‘Walk like a Man’. As they warmed into the first act, the audience cheered to hear these performers each reaching that familiar falsetto that typified Frankie Valli’s singing.
The live band positioned on a high platform at the back of the stage were a little difficult to see but their exuberant playing melded well with the vocals.
3 professional dancing couples bring this dazzling show to life as they whisk their way through a spirited sequence of jives. The rapid wardrobe changes for the singers and dancers gave us a colourful carousel of 50s styles; from braces and waist cinched wide skirts to flowery high waisted bikinis with plenty of sparkle and shiny lurex along the way. We get the additional bonus of some girl band classics from the three female performers giving us their renditions of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound tunes.
The second act launches with a high octane Lindy Hop danced to a lively rendition of “Why do fools fall in love”. The tempo slows through some moody classics such as “Unchained Melody” and “Earth Angel” which really highlight the great voices of these four men.
One break in the slick professionalism of this show was when William Hazel started to doo wop on an octave too high to continue as he introduced the band’s version of “Blue Moon”. The camaraderie and banter amongst the men as they teased him, joked with the audience and then pulled themselves together to start again was a delight to watch. This small slip actually enhanced our appreciation of how talented these singers are and the wide vocal range demanded of these songs – from the lowest “bom bom bom” to the highest “ding dong”.
I would imagine it’s a challenge to take the same show touring to different theatres, moving on in quick succession and still getting the best use of each stage for each song. There were some numbers when the dancers and singers were just a little too crowded together in a small space, creating a visual clash for the audience. However, there were others when the stage direction worked beautifully with the choreography, especially when the dancers were spaced around the stage at different levels or when the singers stood to the side allowing us to fully appreciate the dancing.
Overall this was a wonderful performance, thoroughly enjoyed by the audience who sang, waved their arms and clapped along and even got up dancing to the final medley.