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Let’s hear it for the boys

I’m pretty sure I know what you’ll be doing tonight – er, is it coming home?! – but from tomorrow you’ll either feel like celebrating or may need cheering up. In which case I have just the thing- a trip to the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre to see Jersey Boys, the Olivier-winning West End stormer of a musical that I saw last night and is here until the end of the week.

I’m not a fan of musicals that shoehorn a story around a whole bunch of songs – to me it always feels that the songs should express the synopsis instead, and that was one of the most gratifying parts of Jersey Boys – becuase the story itself is true and compelling. Four boys from New Jersey, from tough upbringings, end up being one of America’s Sixties supergroups, but against a background of mafia, debt, fall-outs and tragedy.

I interviewed the stars of the show earlier this week – check them out on my vlog! – but I must admit at the time hadn’t realised quite the amazing standard of their singing or quite how much they have to do throughout the show. Michael Watson, who plays Frankie Valli, has the most extraordinary voice, going high into falsetto with ease, and Simon Bailey, who was one of the founders of musical supergroup Teatro, also surprised as the strongest actor playing Tommy Devito, the morally corrupt founder of the Four Seasons.

Jersey Boys: Lewis Griffiths, Michael Watson, Declan Egan and Simon Bailey

The theatre wasn’t quite full last night and I always worry what it’s like to be an actor performing to less than capacity, but I have to give them huge credit – they managed to whip the audience into a frenzy and by the close of the show everyone was on their feet and there were certainly whoops (actually a couple of screams – I really do have to have a word with my mother.) There were a large number of older theatre goers as you’d expect  but actually a fair number of younger ones too – I think Lewis Griffiths in particular has quite an ardent fan base!

The first half of the show had plenty of dramatic tension whereas, as if often the case in musicals, the second was slightly weaker – there were so many years to cover, going right to the present day, that the story shuttled along at breakneck speed, leaving us to make some big emotional leaps. That in turn meant that the songs felt more churned out too, but the hits came thick and fast – Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back To You (none of which I knew were Frankie Valli/Four Seasons songs) so it was just about forgivable.

The ensemble cast did an excellent supporting job – James Alexander Gibbs as a young Joe Pesci, who introduced song writer Bob Gaudio to the group, had great timing, and Joel Elferink played the effete music producer Bob Crewe to perfect comic effect.

I’d spoken to several friends before seeing this show who’d all been before and loved it, so although you’d think on first glance it’s just for older audiences, I think you’ll love it too. One word of warning – the language is very ‘Jersey’, with more F-words than even an average teenager can throw at you, so keep this one for the grown-ups.

Jersey Boys is at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday 14 July. Book tickets

 

 

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