This week sees the return of an old favourite to London. Jersey Boys was last seen here four years ago when it completed a mammoth 9 year run. It is now working its way back to the West End to open the newly renovated and beautiful Trafalgar Theatre (formerly Trafalgar Studios)
Based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys takes us through their careers and lives through recollections that often differ depending on which member of the band is telling it. From their beginnings to problems that result in a split in a group, personal tragedies, all their multiple successes and even incarceration, this show takes you on a rollercoaster ride - mostly feel good, the unexpected bits where the rug is pulled out from under you leads to some emotional moments.
A big part of the reason Jersey Boys has been such a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic is down to the songbook - and what a collection this show boasts. All the timeless classics that have transcended multiple generations are here including 'Big Girls Don't Cry', 'December 1963 (Oh What A Night)' and 'Bye Bye Baby' are all present ensuring that even someone who hasn't ever listened to the Four Seasons will come out of there knowing more songs than they expected. 'My Eyes Adored You' is a beautiful tender highlight in the show, and, of course, 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' is an absolute showstopper and the very definition of a crowd-pleaser - you can almost forgive the over-enthusiastic audience for singing along mid-show... almost.
Frankie Valli is played by 2021 graduate Ben Joyce, making his West End debut. Valli's distinctive and unique voice is difficult to replicate, leaving big shoes to fill but Joyce manages this brilliantly. With an equally impressive voice and a confidence that is beyond his years and experience, you get the feeling watching him that you are witnessing a star being born right in front of you.
The other three members of the Four Seasons are equally impressive. Benjamin Yates delights as the charismatic yet troubled Tommy De Vito who leads our story. Adam Bailey is utterly charming as Bob Gaudio and Karl James Wilson has fun playing the quiet Nick Massi who gets some of the shows best moments when he finally comes into the spotlight. With a fantastic supporting cast including Melanie Bright as Mary Delgado, Ben Irish as Bob Crewe and Matteo Johnson as Joe Pesci (though sadly not tormenting Macauley Culkin in this show) the talent is bursting off that stage, ensuring you really won't be able to take your eyes off them.
A relatively simple set design does the trick perfectly, transforming the scene to various performance spaces of differing qualities to more intimate scenes. It proves that bells and whistles aren't always required - sometimes the performance itself is all you need. The iconic numbers are performed with slick choreography from Sergio Trujillo and a brilliant use of live filming interspersed with old footage gives the illusion you are witnessing the real Four Seasons on that stage which helps create the escapism required for a show like this.
Jukebox musicals sometimes get a rough ride from musical theatre fans. I'm here to tell you there is nothing wrong with them - they can be just as good as original musicals. Yes, the fact 80 year old Doris next to you feels the need to outsing Frankie Valli during an intimate moment can be irritating but a simple dusting off of the old death stare should do the trick. The fact is Jersey Boys is the feelgood show audiences have been beggin' for. Surely that is exactly what the world needs right now? If it was a success before, given what we've all been through over the last 18 months, this is just the show people need right now and is sure to enjoy another successful run in London. Oh, what a night you are sure to have with this incredible cast.
Jersey Boys is playing at the Trafalgar Theatre until January 2nd 2022. Tickets from http://www.jerseyboyslondon.com
Photos by Mark Senior