Trafalgar Theatre (venue)
20 August 2021 (released)
21 August 2021
'Oh What A Night' one of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons popular anthems and also a great description for an evening in the theatre that was full of exuberance, nostalgia and sheer joy. A full audience being able to cheer a whoop as hit after hit was rolled out.
But Jersey Boys is much more than that and quite rightly claims to be one of the most successful of the 'Jukebox' musicals. It never shies away from the darker aspects. The true story of the groups life from their harmonies sung under a street light in downtown, New Jersey. Through dealings with the mafia and in certain cases convictions, to later in life, their enrolment in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In its return to the West End the show is somewhat scaled down, venue wise, but in certain cases is all the better for it. This production has an energy and an intimacy that draws the audience in and never lets go. In the newly refurbished Trafalgar Theatre the set's colours and structures blend in perfectly with its surroundings. It has some of the slickest and speediest scene changes, done almost entirely by the well drilled cast, meaning that the pace never drops for a second.
As the Jersey Boys themselves, Adam Bailey as Bob Gaudio, Karl James Wilson as Nick Massi and Benjamin Yates as Tommy DeVito voices blend perfectly, but it is their characterisations where they truly excel. As the troubles in the group arise, there are perfectly pitched performances from everyone of them. Their individual epilogues, where they reveal their later lives, could have been clichéd, but in these three performers hands are both funny and moving.
A real find (straight from Drama School) is Ben Joyce as Frankie Valli, maybe not a perfect match in looks and stature, but the ease with which his voice soars in the group numbers, and then has such control and poignancy in the introspective versions of 'My Eyes Adored Me' and' Fallen Angel ', is a total revelation. He is young, so the early years of Valli seem totally natural. But, even when he has to age to Valli with a teenage daughter, he makes that believable too. Especially when tragedy strikes. He is a rare talent with a huge future ahead of him.
The three women, Koko Basigara, Melanie Bright and Helen Ternent take on all the female roles and partners, and it is due to their excellent performances and a plethora of wigs that there seem so many more.
For a full audience with barely a mask in sight, this is an evening when you truly forget your woes and get swept up in the how wonderful live music and theatre is. With the closing number 'Who loves you?' there is a clear answer, London theatregoers do.