As Jersey Boys plays it’s final night in the West End. MTAS Blogger Charlie Reynolds (@charlieareyno) looks back over the shows 9 year run!
As I am sure many of you are aware, the producers of the hit West End show Jersey Boys have decided that the show will end its nine year run, closing at the Piccadilly Theatre today on 26th March 2017. Such sad news. But let’s not try and dwell and get upset, as it has been one heck of a show. For today’s post I thought I would talk about my experiences with the show and talk about its greatness. I have seen the show twice, and if I am honest, I didn’t have high expectations when I saw the show for the first time. Boy was I surprised!
Oh what a night! – This fantastic musical tells the story of one of the most successful bands in pop history and depicts their rise to stardom. With dazzling performances of all their hits, the show portrays the astonishing true life story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the mob, the romance, the celebrations and most importantly the music, inviting four guys to tell four different stories. With the characters Frankie Valli, Bob Guadio, Tommy Devito and Nick Massi we are invited into the lives of this iconic band.
Jukebox musicals normally get a tough time with the critics, but Jersey Boys has deserved its success. The musical is filled with hit after hit, a sound that is instantly recognisable. The traditional approach of rewriting the songs around the story of the group itself pays off amazingly, proving to be extremely vivid and interesting. The whole story of the Jersey Boys is based around a struggling quartet, discovering fame and fortune after years of failure, where they deal with the pressure of life on the road and the problems within male friendships. I’d say the first fifteen minutes of the show is one of my favourite parts. It is set through a narration titled ‘The Early Years’, where we find out how the band is formed, how they find Frankie, trying to make it into the world of show business. I loved all the different covers they placed in, especially ‘Earth Angel’, fitting really well when Devito is entering prison. The whole section was really fast paced, where songs and sets were changing, allowing the story to keep moving. This worked so well against the backdrop of a bustling town and the dreams of a group of guys hoping to make it.
The musical really shows that to make it into the business you have to work hard. The song ‘Cry Me’ sets this tone, where we see the band inviting Guadio to show them what his talent his, to write songs. It is a beautiful power ballad and was so authentic to see them singing behind a piano, a highlight moment for me in the show. Next, they sing background for artists, inviting us into the studio. I found the scenes really well choreographed, giving us a mixture of music from the time.
For me, a big aspect of this kind of musical is the music. Now that may sound silly as of course a musical is about the music, but these songs are already famous and iconic. The story is created from real life and their music. It is delivered with high fidelity from cheesy fun numbers, classic smash hits and beautiful ballads. Singing like Frankie demands a special range, something that doesn’t look easy to copy, a unique and diverse voice, where the ability to do those kind of jumps must take a lot.
Molloy, who I saw at the time, definitely delivered. He mimicked Valli’s glorious falsetto with ease, capturing the singers’ afflictions and determination, giving us a soundtrack of an entire generation. Frankie was such an influential artist that his story becomes so endearing. Within the story we see his pains for the longing and wanting of something but not being able to achieve it, somewhat becoming heroic. There is so much love for him as a character that he struggles to deal with it, where we as an audience are able to get a glimpse of the problems he faced.
Rumours of mob connections surrounded the Four Seasons throughout their lives where the story behind Angelo “Gyp” Decarlo, a member of the New York Genovese crime family, dominates the plot based around a loan shark operation with Devito. Popular culture has very much affected how we perceive gangsters and the mafia, where a stereotypical image and myth is closely associated with organised crime. I feel, for a musical, with very upbeat songs, they deal with the more serious side of the story extremely well.
The slow inevitable awakening that the group cannot survive anymore is set behind a backdrop of true hardships for Frankie, which I do not want to spoil. Something that is really key for the show is how quick things move, very similar to how quick things move in show business. Even during the hard-hitting moments, the musical can’t stop for too long. The ending is really heart warming, where each member comes to the front and tells the end of their own story, addressing the audience. Despite it being scripted, you really believe them as characters and when it kicks in with finale you can’t help yourself and just smile. It’s for sure a feel good musical.
Jersey Boys truly replays the music of the band in a new context, for anyone to enjoy, it is an incredible show and I am so glad I got to see it twice. For those who have not, do not fret, a new UK tour of Jersey Boys is due to open in December 2017. For more info on that see http://www.jerseyboysuktour.com