Tuesday, 24 August 2021

REVIEW: Jersey Boys at the Trafalgar Theatre

The Trafalgar Theatre reopens in its newly refurbished state with the smash-hit musical Jersey Boys. Returning to the West End after a four-year absence it's clear why this show is still entertaining audiences. The show ran for nine years in London before closing in 2017 and with its return comes a fresh remounting of the original production. 

This jukebox musical follows the story of the Four Seasons, from the groups' original conception right through to their break up and reunion. A true rags to riches story, this is a moving, exciting and interesting telling of the Four Seasons back story. Using the four men's different accounts of what happened, the show manages to move incredibly fast but always keeps the audience with them and at no point do you feel you’ve missed something or are lagging behind. An example of perfect storytelling that many musicals like this should take a couple of notes from. 

As a huge fan of the music, it feels so wonderful to hear it live again in this newly refurbished theatre. The Trafalgar, formerly Trafalgar Studios, has been changed from having a main space and a studio space to being one larger two-level theatre. Although the space is still fairly small compared to other West End houses, it means the piece becomes more intimate from wherever you’re sitting. At times it feels the music needs to be played in a bigger house to get the full effect of the incredible songs but the smaller auditorium also works in the shows favour as it brings the story and characters closer to the audience, almost as if we’re all living through the story with the characters. 

In his West End debut, Ben Joyce stars in the show as the bands lead vocalist Frankie Valli. His voice couldn’t be more perfect for this role, he manages to carry the role with ease and a naturalism that is compelling and impressive. 

Benjamin Yates makes his lead debut in the role of Tommy De Vito, with a plethora of credits to his name it's surprising this is his first leading role. Yates manages to carry the show, the role itself drives the first act along and it's an incredibly heavy job but Yates transforms into the role and has an energy that doesn’t drop, meaning the audience are with him constantly. Embodying the seriousness and dodgy side of the character he also plays the humour creating a well-balanced interpretation of the role. 

Adam Bailey and Karl James Wilson make up the other half of the Four Seasons as Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi. Bailey's energy is a huge contrast to that of Yates with a calmer and delicate touch, enhancing the differences between the two. As the story unfolds he maintains those qualities but also gains intelligence and confidence. As Massi, Wilson tends to be just one step behind the rest in the action and is almost a figure in the background for the majority. When the character acknowledges this, Wilson’s dry humour in the role comes through and he steals those moments. 

This is a true ensemble piece with the rest of the company playing all the other people that come into the four seasons lives. With many set, costume and wigs changes, the company make these slick and effortless meaning the transitions are quick and unnoticeable. A very talented group of actors. 

As an audience you never lose focus on the story, the narrative of the Four Seasons is at the centre of this show and nothing ever comes in the way of the storytelling. It's a masterpiece in getting someone's whole life and career into a two-act musical. 

This piece is an audience pleaser, people love the music and you can see exactly why. Including hits like ‘Sherry’, ‘Walk Like a Man’, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes off You’, ‘Beggin’, Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’ and so many more, this show continues to prove why it deserves a space in the West End. 

Behind the toe-tapping tunes and crowd-pleasing numbers is a raw story of rags to riches (and then back to rags again) with underlying themes of growing up, responsibility and family. An incredibly well-told story with a Stella cast, this musical has to be on the top of your ‘to see’ lists. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★ 

Seat: G15, Stalls | Price of Ticket: £109.50
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