Lewis Baird, Contributing Critic - United Kingdom
“Jersey Boys” Is a musical which has been touring the UK time and time again. It is one of the most iconic stage musicals of the 21st century and audiences have been lapping up the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons for fifteen years. And unbelievably, I had never seen the musical until this evening (Wednesday 20th February), in Edinburgh’s answer to Broadway, the Edinburgh Playhouse. So, did this hyped musical live up to expectation?
The story of “Jersey Boys” follows the bandmates of The Four Seasons, Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi. It shows the roots of the bands, the trials they endured (literally), their personal life and of course how they created the iconic music that the world has come to love.
Michael Watson as Frankie Valli provides a simply staggering portrayal. Michael completely owns the stage during each musical performance, his voice is identical to Valli’s. He effortlessly hits the high notes that made this singer so renowned, while performing with such energy, and radiating charisma. With the most notable performance being his showstopping rendition of the absolutely iconic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”. In terms of acting, at points there are issues with diction, however, that is completely forgotten about as Michael delivers a realistic journey through Frankie’s life, the development in character we see from the beginning of the performance compared to the end, is immense. He is almost unrecognizable as he transforms from the young innocent boy, into a man whose life has been all about music, friends and family. It truly is a remarkable and fantastic performance from Watson.
Simon Bailey is hilarious, shocking and superb as Tommy DeVito. Simon supplies a character bursting with colour, which lifts rather dark moments of this musical, by using every moment to supply suitable humour and typical Italian American charm. Bailey also truly delivers while singing, using his voice during musical numbers to outlet the characters emotion. The audience absolutely love this character and it’s mainly due to how open Simon leaves this character, and there is no filter between him and the rest of the audience.
Declan Egan’s portrayal of Bob Gaudio shows a rather innocent (at first), 1960s young gentleman. Declan really embraced the fact that Bob brought a completely different dynamic to the existing trio, and when he first walks onto stage you instantly notice the change. Declan excellently delivers a fresh element and a character with a different tempo to the rest of the group. His character’s journey and conflict are delivered in a totally believable way, and his great singing voice, plus clear talent, adds to the depth of his portrayal.
Nick Massi is shown on stage with an honest, funny, loving and dignified portrayal from Lewis Griffiths, in act one Griffiths portrays Massi nicely with his rather refined nature, while giving us hints that there is a very clever and talented man there. In act two, we see Lewis then let him stretch out very nicely, showing the cracks and dealing very truthfully to the more pinnacle points of Massi’s life within The Four Seasons. Overall something which Lewis provides very well is the slight humour, which is not overplayed and fits well within this true story. Griffiths completely owns his performance of Massi’s bass vocals, he really adds to the vocal structure of the band.
In this company, there is a large ensemble who play a multitude of parts, each of them are dynamic, adaptive and hold strong presence. James Alexander Gibbs as Joe Pesci (and others), Joel Elferink as Bob Crewe (and others), Mark Heenehan as Gyp DeCarlo (and others), Karl James Wilson as Norm Waxman (and others), Arnold Mabhena as Barry (and others), Phoebe May Newman as Francine (and others), Olive Robinson as Lorraine (and others), James Winter as Hank Majewski (and others), Tara Young as Mary Delgado (and others), Peter Nash, Dan O’Brien, Stephen O’Rian and Amy Thiroff are swings for this production.
Director, Des McAnuff, manages to cram Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s into the two hours 30 minutes running time (with interval), by making the show fast paced, however doing so in a way which the story sticks with the audience and that they don’t miss a beat. He co-ordinates the actors well around Klara Zieglerova’s, minimalist yet technically advanced set design, so that the audience’s imagination is guides themselves through the setting of each scene. His emphasis on that this is a true story and not your typical musical is definitely shown in the identity of the show, seeing as there is a need and meaning for every musical number used, not just people bursting into song for the sake of it. These numbers are gloriously complimented by Sergio Trujillo’s effective and visually delightful choreography, which stays true to the groups original dancing while performing. The costume design by Jess Goldstein really adds to the visual treats that this production supplies and even though most of these are simplistic 50s/60s clothing, some of the suits the boys wear are very dazzling.
Overall, this production is the ultimate crowd pleaser, if you are a Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons fan, then you are in for the ultimate musical treat. For me as someone who loves the music included within “Jersey Boys” and didn’t know the full story behind the band, I absolutely adored this musical. It is clear to see why many people come away feeling like this production is phenomenal. There are many great elements which are mainly brought in by the cast, however creatives have done well in letting this story and the music, speak for itself. I would highly recommend getting yourself a ticket to go see this musical, and see the great story, plus this great production for yourself.
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