Review: Jersey Boys
Oh, what a night!
The jukebox musical has become a staple of the West End. No pop group's back catalogue is safe from the merciless hunt for a quick buck amongst theatreland's hit junkies. And that continues to include Jersey Boys.
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Earlier in the year, we reviewed Thriller: Live - the most ironically named musical in the West End, wheeling out MJ's back catalogue like embarrassing aunties at a bar mitzvah. It's a musical that could teach anarchists a thing or two about trashing lovely gifts, and shows what happens when the jukebox gets its wiring wrong.
So what about Jersey Boys? Like Thriller, it takes on a renowned and long series of hits - this time from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Frankie and the band sold some 100 million records in their time, and it would be sacrosanct to suggest the likes of Sherry and Big Girls Don't Cry are anything other than classics. But that is, as we've learned, no free pass to success.
In the stage adaptation, the hits narrate the tale of their rags-to-riches lives. From difficult Jersey upbringings - in and out of prison - they look set to become the sort of rookies so many of their peers have ended up. But the boys know they share an extraordinary talent. The dream becomes plausible with the addition of Bobby - a middle-class momma's boy, with the brains and work ethic to turn lullabies into lolly. From there the group doo-whop straight into the music hall of fame.
50 years of Four Seasons is covered in this two hour musical, meaning it moves at a speedy pace. A pace which at times is hard to keep up with, along with their thick Jersey accents that - whether on purpose or not - mean the audience frustratingly loses some of the dialogue.
Jersey Boys won numerous Tony awards in the US, including Best Musical (a prize which currently rests with the Book of Mormon). But it's a journey very much down America's memory lane, rather than one Brits might recognise. And the scaffold set isn't in the same league as some other West End offerings - The Bodyguard to name one - making it all a bit ugly at times.
But Jersey Boys is an excellent night's entertainment. It's hard not to enjoy with the stream of hits and top-notch one-liners. The plot is decent (compared to some jukebox counterparts) and though this isn't suitable for pre-teens, with frequent swearing, it is a great evening out for anyone else. Five years into its stay, Jersey Boys is still holding its own.
GT gives Jersey Boys 4/5
We got our tickets from London Theatre Bookings, which you can pick up online, or in their central London kiosks.
Words: Benjamin Butterworth