Review: Jersey Boys, Prince Edward Theatre, 11/04/2012

27/04/2012

When? Wednesday 11th April 2012
Where? Prince Edward Theatre, London, stalls
Who? Ryan Molloy, Matthew Wycliffe “Jean”, Eugene McCoy, Jon Boydon, Jon Lee, Nicola Brazil, Charlie Bull, Dan Burton, Mark Carroll, Michael Conway, Chris Gardner, Lucinda Gill, Trina Hill, Mark Isherwood, Tee Jaye, Ben Jennings, Howard Jones, Stuart Milligan, Edd Post, Jake Samuels, Ben Wheeler, Gemma Whitelam

Foreword:

This is an update of my previous review of this production from February 2011; the production has seen a major cast change since then and it is this change that I have focused on in this review. You can find the original review in full here detailing a lot more about the production itself. Check out the ‘comments’ section for a detailed explanatory reply from cast member Jon Boydon who clarifies a few technical details about the production.

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It is no exaggeration to say that my first, belated visit to Jersey Boys back in February 2011 was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had in the theatre – and at a matinée performance with several understudies, no less. A return visit had been on the agenda ever since; primarily to see the highly acclaimed multi award winning Ryan Molloy as the Italian-American street kid turned mega star Frankie Valli, who was unfortunately indisposed last time around.

The show is in even better shape than it was for my last visit. The cast feel incredibly fresh, each scene is more delightful than the last and some moments which went relatively unnoticed last time were sensational, mainly thanks to Molloy’s quality and commitment to the moment. His second act heartbreaker ‘Fallen Angel’ actually moved me to tears, the conviction in Molloy’s performance and passion in his voice remarkable; his talent undeniable. Equally astounding is Jon Boydon’s Tommy DeVito who draws conflicting emotions with his portrayal. Über cool but essentially a liability, his interaction with the other Four Seasons members as they discover DeVito’s flaws – which eventually drive him from the band he created – is a joy to behold. New cast member Matthew Wycliffe is wonderful as the songwriting genius of the group Bob Gaudio, full of wide-eyed innocence in the early stages but, as the side-deals and politics of the group start to surface, his business savvy side shines through and much of the child-like gloss has been scratched away giving the character a well-rounded story arc. Eugene McCoy completes the line-up as Nick Massi who, since my last visit, seems to have crossed the line from ‘a bit slow’ into ‘painfully gormless’, delivering his lines with mush-mouth through a rather ropey accent, although he still earns plenty of laughs with his recurring ambition to ‘start… my own…. group’ in typically deadpan tone.

The supporting cast are still brilliant, there is not a hint of boredom or fatigue with long-serving cast members Stuart Milligan and Tee Jaye giving good, fresh turns, Charlie Bull (Lorraine), Dan Burton (Joe Pesci) and Howard Jones (Bob Crewe) are also right on the money with their respective performances.

Unfortunately, the performance I attended was plagued with technical problems, something which fortunately didn’t affect the performers too much, although several numbers were played without bass guitar (the wire having dropped out) and there were a few microphone failures, which the cast handled professionally as you would expect. As with many of the ‘big name’ West End shows such as The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Mamma Mia and so on, there were a large number of international tourists at Jersey Boys, many of whom had bought discounted tickets to see ‘a show’. The audience were extremely flat throughout, despite the cast’s superb efforts and energy levels, which I attribute to many not understanding what was being said and therefore being unwilling to engage. This performance of Jersey Boys is the finest show I have seen not to receive a standing ovation – the cast looked visibly exhausted at the curtain call with perhaps even a touch of disappointment on display, which says to me just how much pride they take in giving their all for each audience, night after night in this particular show.

I know it is old hat to rave about Jersey Boys, Ryan Molloy, Jon Boydon et al – but this show remains one of, if not the best all-round experiences the West End. If you haven’t seen it, then check the performance schedule for Molloy’s performance dates and book now!

- Harry Zing
Chewingthescenery.com

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