Music: Bob Gaudio
Lyrics: Bob Crewe
Director: Des McAnuff

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Details: Prince Edward Theatre, Old Compton Street, W1D 4HS
Tube: Leicester Square
Performances: Mon-Sat 7.30 pm, Matinees Tue and Sat 2.30 pm
Running time: 2h30

The Jersey BoysIn short: An addictive smash with all your favourite old-school hits from Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, and a look into the gritty blue-collar past of the musicians in their native New Jersey.

In full: Ever get annoyed with those people who break into wild dances from their seats at shows? Especially the ones who loudly sing along? Get over it. By the end of Jersey Boys, you might well be one of them.

Originally a sensation in New York, the musical walks the audience through decades of struggle and success as four musicians from a rough neighbourhood try to make it big with catchy rhythms and piercing vocals that no one thought could come from a white guy. In between committing petty crimes and doing jail time, the Jersey boys somehow find an agent, a fan base and tour dates that leave them with more money and women than they could have imagined.

Against a background of Lichtenstein-style art and walls of prison wire, the stage versions of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons blast out shockingly accurate representations of original hits including Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Stay. Director Des McAnuff has the band perform into onstage cameras several times and broadcasts their “concerts” onto black-and-white TV screens that effectively evoke Sixties cheese without going overboard.

With a script that relates more closely to the band’s history than the Mamma Mia! plot does to ABBA’s, writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice show The Four Seasons’ ups and downs through the perspective of each original band member. The storyline shifts from light-hearted – such as when keyboard player/songwriter Bob Gaudio finally, but speedily, loses his virginity – to heavy-hitting. Smooth-talking guitarist Tommy DeVito racks up big debts that put the band in trouble with both mobsters and the IRS.

Lead Ryan Molloy is a strong choice for Frankie. His falsetto emanates through the theatre in December 1963 (Oh, What a Night) so clearly that audience members of all ages should go home wanting to buy a Four Seasons CD. Glenn Carter, as a charming but pushy Tommy, is convincingly magnetic even when his character’s vices lead the band toward defeat.

For a night of catchy tunes (the band had 16 top-40 hits in the US in just more than two years, if that indicates how many titles will be recognisable) and a few hours of fun, head over to the Prince Edward Theatre to see what happens when a few boys from Jersey get together with a big idea. Just as Frankie croons, “Can’t take my eyes off of you,” London won’t be able to stop watching this treat for quite awhile.

– Jill Hilbrenner

Other Critics
– ‘If it works at all, it is because Ryan Molloy carries all before him as the pint-sized Italian-American with the extraordinary falsetto that makes it sound as if a really tuneful Minnie Mouse has taken up residence in his throat.’ Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
– ‘Overpaid, oversexed and over here, it will, I suspect, be some time before London says Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye) to the phenomenal Jersey Boys.’ Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph