🎭 Jersey Boys
📍 Trafalgar Theatre, 14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY
🗓 Monday 31st July 2023
I CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF THE NEW JERSEY BOYS CAST!
The revival of hit jukebox musical Jersey Boys is entering its third year at London’s Trafalgar Theatre and last night I was privileged to be invited to the Gala Night to welcome and celebrate the new 2023/24 cast.
Jersey Boys charts the life and times of the Four Seasons and follows their rise to fame as well as delving into their personal lives, criminal activities and links to the mob! This is a no holds barred look behind the squeaky clean image of the group in the 1960’s.
The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice was written after conversations with original Four Seasons members and it was quickly apparent that “you ask four guys, you get four different versions” so the decision was made to give each member his chance to tell his story, and so the concept of breaking the show down into four sections (or seasons!) was born.
The first season is Spring where we see the group begin to form and jail time for all the original three members, known here as The Variety Trio, and is narrated by Tommy Devito, who is self-credited as the creator of the group. DeVito is convincingly portrayed by Peter Nash who takes on the character with authority, integrity and just a hint of sarcasm! The bad boy of the group, Nash manages to portray his failings and contempt in such a way that endears him to the audience, who he has on side from the very beginning. Nash has a wonderful singing voice with a beautiful tone and he is a joy to listen to as he performs Earth Angel.
As the show enters the Summer, we meet Bob Gaudio who takes over as narrator. This is where we see the group go full-throttle as they reach for the stars and earn themselves a hat trick of Number 1’s with their first three songs Sherry, Big Girl’s Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man. Returning to the role of Bob Gaudio, having previously played the role in both the original London run and on tour, is Declan Egan who has a certain elegance to his performance and gives the vocal performance of the first act with an exquisite rendition of Cry For Me. He also leads the performance of December 1963 (Oh, What a Night!) in a scene which is cleverly staged as Gaudio achieves his sexual initiation! “It is more fun with another person!”
Act 2 opens in the Fall, and rather poetically this is where things start to fall apart for the original Four Seasons as DeVito’s gambling addiction catches up with him and he leaves the group with a $1 million debt. Bass player Nick Massi takes over with the story telling, having been rather quiet up until this point. Karl James Wilson has a long history with the role of Massi and is a divine, confident and commanding performer. Although he the only season not to take on lead vocals during the show, Wilson’s incredibly smooth and sexy voice adds great depth and tone to the harmonies throughout.
Winter sees the group in the aftermath of the exit of founding members Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi and reinvent itself as Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons as Bob Gaudio steps back from performing to concentrate on writing and producing. This is where we finally get to hear from Frankie Valli who is played beautifully by Luke Suri. The incomparable Suri is a wonderfully expressive performer and doesn’t even need to be speaking for you to know exactly what he’s thinking! He gives an absolutely flawless performance as Valli with incredible acting skills and a voice which is out of this world. He effortlessly sings in a falsetto voice and the audience watches and listens in admiration when he performs. He has a unique power to make you cry out of sadness as well as out of utter respect for his talent. When he performs Can’t Take My Eyes Off You the audience listens in silent awe and then explodes into a frenzy of well deserved applause at the climax. Another standout performance from him is Fallen Angel where he gives an unapologetically raw performance. As someone who has a long history with this show, Suri is my absolutely favourite person to have ever played the role of Frankie Valli and I’m so happy he’s stayed on in the role after making his West End debut in the 2022/23 cast. I’ve absolutely no doubt that Suri is going to be a huge name within the theatre world in the future.
Jersey Boys can surely boast the most versatile ensemble in the West End, with each member having one main character as well as playing a plethora of others! Kirsty Whelan, who was previously a swing on the recent tour, joins the cast as Mary Delgado and is amazing. Her take on the character is wonderfully believable and I especially love her New Jersey accent. She is precise in her performance and easily communicates different emotions throughout.
Joseph Peters is wonderfully camp as record producer Bob Crewe and gets some has some of the best lines in the script, creating laugher and appreciation from the audience. He creates a wonderful dynamic within the show and has a great ability to change all aspects of himself with each character he depicts.
Gracie Lai gives a beautifully engaging performance as Lorraine and is so joyous to watch. Rosie Needham completes the trio of Jersey Girls and leads an electrifying performance of My Boyfriend’s Back.
There is not one weak link in the company. Joey Cornish gives a hilariously excitable performance as Joe Pesci, Andy Barke is domineering as Gyp Decarlo, Oliver Tester gives a strong performance and Jacob McIntosh, who is making a return to the company after appearing in the original revival cast in 2021/22, is confident and laid back in all his roles.
Swing Matthew Lawrence makes an appearance as a character fans of the show have come to know as Sexy Sax Guy! and joins the West End cast having just played Norm Waxman on the tour.
The set design is rather industrial but is superbly versatile and lends itself to many different scenarios, with different props flying in or being brought on by the cast. The attention to detail and the way the screens are used at the back of the stage is inspired. The show is a real spectacle with direction, lighting, sound and choreography all working together to create a musical theatre experience like no other! Resident choreographer Bonnie Page keeps the dance moves tight and feeling fresh. She is also a swing in the company, covering all the female roles!
The power of the harmonies throughout the show helps to deliver a layer of sound unmatched by other productions. A particular favourite of mine which showcases these harmonies is My Eyes Adored You.
Obviously it’s the wonderful songs which draw people to see this show, but the secret to it’s longevity has to be the story and the wonderful heart and warmth that emits from the stage. It’s definitely a show that takes the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions, but essentially it’s a feel-good night out. It’s fast-paced but never feels rushed and had the entire theatre up on their feet and dancing in the aisles during the finale.
Jersey Boys is is still hitting all the right notes and is currently booking until January 2024. Head to www.jerseyboysmusical.co.uk to check availability and book tickets. It’s safe to say I’ll be working my way back to the Trafalgar Theatre very soon!
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
My tickets for this performance of Jersey Boys were gifted by Neil Reading PR who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my tickets were gifted played no part in the star rating or the content of my review.
2023/24 CAST LIST:
Luke Suri as Frankie Valli; Declan Egan as Bob Gaudio; Karl James Wilson as Nick Massi; Peter Nash as Tommy DeVito; Joseph Peters as Bob Crewe (& others); Kirsty Whelan as Mary Delgado (& others); Andy Barke as Gyp DeCarlo (& others); Gracie Lai as Lorraine (& others); Joey Cornish as Joe Pesci (& others) / Alternate Frankie Valli; Rosie Needham as Francine (& others); Oliver Tester as Norm Waxman / Hank Majewski (& others); Jacob McIntosh as Barry (& others)
Swings: Matthew Lawrence; Danny Knott; Pearce Barron; Bonnie Paige; Daniel Parkinson; Olly Manley
RUN TIME (approx):
2 hours 35 minutes, including interval
Loud gunshot; Blood imagery; Frequent bad language
London's Jersey Boys: Luke Suri; Declan Egan; Karl James Wilson; Peter Nash