Friday, 19 October 2018

REVIEW: Jersey Boys at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical, packed full of smash hits from Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The programme even features a list of “the ones that got away” – thankfully, not every song was played or we would have been there until Christmas! You’ll hear your favourite tunes – ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’, ‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and ‘My Eyes Adored You’ to name but a few.

Scaled down from its West End home at the Piccadilly Theatre, this touring production wows with its music but it lacks a certain … oomph.

Jersey Boys is unique as not only is it a jukebox musical, but it’s the real story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. It’s a remarkable story, however this production is somewhat clunky in its composition. A narration heavy production, which plods through history in a formulaic to-and-fro between speech and song. “But a to-and-fro between speech and song? That’s practically every musical ever written” I hear you say… Yes, I agree but this production relies so heavily on its narration to tell the story, the songs don’t actually aid it – they are used more like punctuation which is a total injustice to the music. With the exception of only two or three numbers, the songs are not used to tell the story – only to highlight where we are in The Four Seasons timeline … “and now, this song was released so we’re going to sing it for you”. Yes, the music is fantastic and the performances from the four Jersey Boys in particular were fantastic but the show itself lacks lustre.

I cannot really fault the cast at all. Dayle Hodge as ‘Frankie Valli’ was every inch a superstar. His vocal range was astonishing – a suitable trait for this mammoth role. No matter how high the falsetto notes were written, Hodge lost no strength in his conviction and continually wowed the audience but quite literally saved his best note until the very end.

As ‘Tommy Devito’ was Simon Bailey. As our leading narrator for the show, Devito’s arc is troubled and complex but Bailey plays it very earnestly. Declan Egan’s ‘Bob Gaudio’ was a welcomed comedic relief, particularly in Act 1 but added a vulnerability when showing his uneasiness on the stage and preference for being a writer behind the scenes. Lewis Griffiths’ superbly bass-y and stoic ‘Nick Massi’ offered a fantastic range of light and shade in his sections of narration; I only wish we’d seen more of him.

I find productions like this incredibly frustrating to review. The cast were
fabulous and the music was superb but something about this show stops it connecting with the audience the way it should. There was a notable lack of head bobbing and toe tapping around me - everything felt very still. 

Frankie Valli is 84 years old and he is still touring. He’s at the O2 London this December. The man is an icon and absolutely worthy of his own musical. Unfortunately, this show does not do the real Jersey Boys justice. Lengthy narrations are this show’s downfall and the music is not given the chance to carry the story like it could. 

Deliciously good performances but a disappointing production overall. 

Review by Harriet Langdown 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls, J33 | Price of Ticket: £50
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