Oh, what a night - Jersey Boys are back in the West End and it’s the show we need

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 (PR handout)
(PR handout)

Jersey Boys is back in town and oh, what a show it is. The story of four ordinary men from New Jersey and their rise to fame as the Four Seasons returns to London, four years after its last West End run. Yes, the musical theatre landscape is somewhat saturated with jukebox shows. But you could say that it’s the winning combination of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s slick book and the roof-raising musical performances of the Four Seasons’ hit back-catalogue which sets this one apart.

In a direct address to the audience, smooth-talker and straight-shooter Tommy DeVito (a charismatic Benjamin Yates) narrates the story of how the four Italian-Americans met and grafted their way through multiple name changes, spells in and out of prison and run-ins with the local mob, to make their way to the top.

Aspects of DeVito’s account are swiftly undermined as writer Bob Gaudio (a likeable Adam Bailey), bass singer Nick Massi (a comedic Karl James Wilson) and lead singer Frankie Valli (Ben Joyce - electric) each tell their own version of events. Unsurprisingly, they differ somewhat, but one thing is clear: at the height of their success, the group were riddled with issues in their private lives that were at stark odds with their slick and squeaky clean public appearance.

In two and a half hours, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s tight script covers considerable ground, finding ways to weave in humour, grit and of course many of the group’s greatest hits. And boy, do the Four Seasons have a lot of them, including Sherry, Beggin’, Walk Like A Man and December, 1963 (Oh What a Night). Under the direction of Des McAnuff, the lead quartet deliver tuneful harmonies while brilliantly executing Sergio Trujillo’s suave choreography. A special mention must go to newcomer Joyce, who makes a star turn as Valli. With his impressive vocal range and acting chops, it’s no surprise that his performance of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You was a show-stopper during press night.

 (PR handout)
(PR handout)

Have producers been risk-averse in lifting and dropping the show back into the West End right now? Perhaps. But after all the upheaval the theatre scene has suffered during the last year and a half, if this musical succeeds in placing bums back in seats (and even getting some bums to wiggle down the aisles), then I can’t fault that.

Booking until January 2 2022, trafalgartheatre.com

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