Returning to the newly renovated Trafalgar Theatre on Whitehall, the award-winning, smash hit musical Jersey Boys is a revival filled with pure glee and nostalgia. Charting the rise and fall of the rock-do-wop band The Four Seasons, this production just pops with energy and talent on stage: you can’t take your eyes off it.
1960, Newark, New Jersey. Local musician and chancer Tommy De Vito (Peter Nash) takes the angelically voiced Frankie Valli (Luke Suri) under his wing. Together with their trusty base guitarist Nick Massi (Karl James Wilson), they attempt to climb to musical stardom. But it’s only when they meet keyboardist-songwriter Bob Gaudio (Declan Egan) that they begin to reach it. However, each member has their own view on this graft-to-glamour tale, and each wants to tell what really happened.
The Rashomon-style structure is a fruitful invention from writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, innovating the narrative of standard musical biopics. Inevitably, the focus is quickly drawn to leading man Frankie, but it does allow the other band members a moment in the spotlight. Despite the narrative “baton” being passed on every few scenes, the story is remarkably accessible for those unfamiliar with The Four Seasons’ history.
While the band’s origins and pivotal turning points are contested, the selection of their greatest hits are given powerful crowd-pleasing renditions (everything from their early discography to the iconic December 1963 and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You). The vocal talents of the small ensemble are astounding, and the principals are a complete delight for their skill and charm. Suri’s almost ear-splitting falsetto induces chills, though all the stand-out moments are when the foursome sing together. The first time their voices harmonise in a rehearsal of Cry for Me is truly wonderful.
Des McAnuff’s direction keeps the years moving swiftly through speedy transitions, and Sergio Truijillo’s choreography retains the period’s swing-and-sway dance. High above designer Klara Zieglerova’s angular, metallic walkway, a projection screen headlines scenes with 60s pop art and the band’s TV appearances recreated live on-stage. A few slips with the cast’s New Jersey accents can be distracting, while the underdevelopment of the women’s stories and the anti-climactic fizzling out of the band weaken the production’s otherwise infectious zeal.
Nevertheless, there is enough humour, sentimentality, superb musical sound and incredible talent for a vigorous recommendation from this reviewer. Jersey Boys, 2023 – what a production, what a night!
Image: Marc Brenner
Jersey Boys is at Trafalgar Theatre until 28th January 2024. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.