Review: JERSEY BOYS, Trafalgar Theatre

Slick, engaging and toe-tappingly good.

By: Aug. 01, 2023
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Review: JERSEY BOYS, Trafalgar Theatre
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Jersey BoysJersey Boys, the jukebox musical that chronicles the iconic band the Four Seasons’ rise to fame, is no stranger to the West End. In fact, the show ran for nine years after its original debut in 2009. And, if this revival at the Trafalgar Theatre is anything to go by - its longevity is well-earned. Slick, engaging and toe-tappingly good, Jersey Boys is jukebox theatre at its best.

Featuring familiar hits such as “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like A Man”, and “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)”, the story follows the band from their formation through to their chart-topping success and eventual disbandment. It's a real rags-to-riches tale, as the group begins performing local gigs in their hometown before taking the world by storm.

The story begins with Tommy DeVito discovering a teenage Frankie Valli. Recognising that the kid had a voice that would one day dominate the charts, he takes him under his wing and welcomes him to his band. Such efforts are interrupted when Devito is arrested, leaving Nick Massi (a fellow band member) to help Valli discover his voice while he’s away. When Devito returns, trios are out - and quartets are in. Through a recommendation from "Joey" Pesci (Yes, that Joe Pesci), they’re introduced to Bob Gaudio. Not only is he a talented musician, but he’s also a writer. 

Then, they have a hit on their hands. 

And then another one.

And then another one.

Of course, everything that rises must fall. Relationships sour as gambling debts and life on the road catch up to the bands, and they learn that life on the top is not necessarily what they expected it to be.

There are challenges in playing characters based on real people - especially for those of whom there are hours of performance footage available to watch and scrutinise. However, this is a challenge that the Jersey Boys cast rise to with ease and confidence - sharing genuine chemistry throughout.

Luke Suri is pitch-perfect Frankie Valli, hitting impressive high notes without any sign of difficulty. It truly feels like you’re watching Franki Valli on the stage - especially during the Act-Two number, “Beggin”. Peter Nash is equally captivating as Tommy DeVito, managing to play the hero and the villain simultaneously, as DeVito switches between being staunchly protective and dangerously impulsive.  Declan Egan is excellent as Bob Gaudio - who, in many cases, is the spark behind their rise to fame. Frankie had the voice but wouldn’t have had anything to sing if not for Gaudio. Egan shows a precise skill for comic timing throughout. Karl James Wilson rounds out the quartet as Nick Massi - quiet and brooding but nonetheless compelling.

While the entire ensemble is strong, Joey Cornish's west-end debut as Joey Pesci is particularly engaging. So too, is Joseph Peters as Bob Crewe - often earning some of the biggest laughs of the night.

With an impressive discography to choose from, Jersey Boys does not slip into the trap that many jukebox musicals fall into - that is, the songs do not at any stage feel shoe-horned in. They fit effortlessly into the narrative. This, coupled with slick choreography from Sergio Trujillo, allows for a theatrical production that feels part-documentary part-concert. This is also aided by clever projections (Michael Clark) and rustic, backstage-esque stage design (Klara Zieglerova).

While the female characters within the production could do with more development, writers Marshall Brickman">Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice succeed in fitting an expansive story into a short time frame. Here, rose-tinted glasses are tossed aside; as the character’s misdeeds are not glossed over but presented plainly on stage. 

In many ways, Jersey Boys represents theatre at its best. By using familiar songs, the production is both accessible and entertaining - and could also be a great way to introduce younger audiences to the Four Seasons. While at points exploring the darker side of fame, the production is lively, comedic and bold - which means the audience is almost itching to get up and dance throughout. 

Jersey Boys is booking at the Trafalgar Theatre until January 2024.

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner.