Jersey Boys has seemingly become a musical that everyone has seen, or at least it feels that way. I was therefore thrilled to get my first chance at seeing it last night at the Orchard Theatre.
Jersey Boys is a musical jukebox which tells the story of the group itself, from its formation through to their induction in the rock and roll hall of fame. In terms of a group’s back story this is actually one of the more interesting ones, there is a big focus on debts understandably so as this lead to the groups break up as well as other less salubrious moments in the groups past. Due to the nature of the show it is hard to get emotionally invested, even during the more tender moments of the show I didn’t feel strongly about what the characters were going through on stage. Sometimes for a show of this nature it is hard to pack in the bands whole history whilst giving space for the audience to feel something for the characters. By contrast there were also moments that felt superfluous such as the introduction of the girl group ‘The Angels.’ I think in the case of Jersey Boys we could have even had 1 or 2 songs less r trimmed the story of the less important moments it may have allowed us to delve a little deeper into the more emotional or high stakes moments.
However the focus of Jersey Boys is on the music and understandably so. There are over 30 musical numbers in the show and even then there is a lot of songs that got away! There is no denying that the cast have the vocal ability to pull off these numbers and have the imitation of the group down to a ‘T’. My criticism however would be that for a show about the music the sound itself in the theater didn’t sit perfectly. Many moments were on the quiet side, sometimes the balance between the 4 was off (vital for a 4 part harmony group) and often I just wanted a bit more punch. It was a shame as when the sound balance was right, such as at the end of Act 1, it really lifted the show and the energy of the audience. Whilst this may sound like a minor niggle for a show such as this it is vitally important for this to be spot on.
Michael Pickering played Frankie Valli. These are huge shoes for someone to fill and Valli’s sound is not only distinct but hard to maintain across a tour. Pickering didn’t seem to falter at this challenge and if I closed my eyes I could have believed I was listening to Valli! One of the standout performances for me was Blair Gibson as Bob Gaudio. Gaudio was the man behind the music and I actually found his back story one of the more interesting. We discovered that he didn’t like being out front and that he was much more comfortable writing than he was performing. Gibson himself came across with bundles of charisma. Dalton Wood was the swaggering Tommy DeVito who really played up the ‘Jersey’ in Jersey boys and Lewis Griffiths was the dry Nick Massi who I would have loved to see more of.
The set itself is made of scaffolding and spiral staircases and it was a clever choice as it the scenes to move quickly from one location to another without the need for huge scenes changes. At a couple of points there was noisy changes happening when things such as tables were being moved whilst dialogue was happening. This coincided with moments where we were struggling to hear in any event so it could have done with being cranked up even more than normal.
Jersey Boys is undoubtedly a fun show, especially for fans of the music as well as giving an interesting look into the back story of such an group however if you want a show that will move you then there are better choices out there.
Jersey Boys is on at The Orchard Theater until 22nd January. To find out more about Jersey Boys at the Orchard Theater you can book tickets here.
If you like this review you might also like my review of Groan Ups, The Rocky Horror Show and Grease.