Frankie Valli – Scott Monello, Tommy DeVito – Jon Boydon
Bob Gaudio – Stephen Ashfield, Nick Massi – Eugene McCoy
Prior to watching Jersey Boys last week, I had seen the show twice. Once when it first opened in the West End, and again last year on Broadway. Production-wise, the shows don’t differ, and Tuesday’s performance didn’t stray from the original at all.
Act One begins slowly. I know that some people, myself included, struggle to get hooked into the story in the first twenty minutes. The background of Nick Massi and how he discovered Frankie Valli is obviously essential in the telling of the rest of the story, however the speed in which the opening 20 minutes is conducted leaves the audience a little restless. The reason for this, I believe, is largely in the dialogue. With the performers required to speak in the thick Brooklyn/New Jersey accent it can sometimes be a struggle to understand what is being said. Of course the nature of the story is fast paced, jail hopping, dodgy dealing, fast talking New Jersey, however for the purpose of the stage, I feel it a little over-whelming for an audience who basically like the songs of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. I will mention though that watching Jersey Boys in the UK was much easier than watching it on Broadway. Actors speaking in their own dialect very quickly made the opening scenes even more difficult to understand and made the whole thing seem rushed and much less enjoyable.
Saying this, I still thoroughly enjoyed Jersey Boys. The music is celebrated through time, the characters witty and the plot very funny at times. The quartet I watched perform as Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi gelled well as a group and produced a fantastic, harmonious sound. In my opinion, the show really takes off with the introduction of Bob Gaudio with his songs Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and those that follow.
Frankie Valli alternate, Scott Monello, played for us on Tuesday. I know some people are wary of understudies, however Monello performed with great confidence and undoubtedly has a very strong voice. His accent slipped occasionally, but this didn’t distract from the strength of his performance. There is hearsay within the industry as to whether another voice substitutes the vocals for the lead role on some songs in order to give the actor playing Frankie a vocal rest. I am not to sure on the truth in this, but there were songs where there were noticeable differences in the tone of Valli’s voice, particularly in the song Walk Like a Man. Watching closely, I could see that Jye Frasca (Joey) was singing discreetly in the background. This is all speculation and regardless of this, Monello is extremely talented and held the role with no trouble at all.
When I saw the West End original Tommy DeVito, played by the wonderful Glenn Carter, I wasn’t sure anyone else would reach the high standard set by him. Jon Boydon however, was fantastic. He had the exact right mix of dynamics in DeVito’s character. He was suave, cheeky, sinister, controlling and definitely had one of the most essential traits of DeVito’s…self-importance. Vocally he was as strong as any of the other DeVito’s I’ve seen, and definitely had the stage presence needed. Boydon had each specific piece of choreography perfect, and obviously did the appropriate research to get the characteristics of DeVito into his performance seamlessly. I was very impressed.
Stephen Ashfield, who played Bob Gaudio, played the role of the reluctant star well. As the story develops, you can see the character’s confidence growing and his wit increasing. By the end, Ashfield presents a strong character with the poise of a successful man.
Now, a lot of sympathy has to go out to the character of Nick Massi. He is the quiet one, the one who has to share a room with Tommy, the one who slowly builds up a hatred for the road, and he does it all with a comical dry humour. Eugene McCoy plays the part wonderfully and really has the audience on his side. Vocally he’s very strong with a rich bass voice, which suits the role perfectly. This lovable character doesn’t have to do much to gain the audience’s sympathy, but McCoy does it with just the right amount of intellect, wit and various subtleties.
I have to place a special mention to Simon Adkins who took on the part of Bob Crewe. He made the character extremely camp but did not make him a caricature, a risk always taken when playing such a strong characteristic. Also the choreography deserves to be applauded too. Although it can be seen as simple, it is very specific to the original group and the era they performed in. I really enjoy watching the small, sharp and precise movements witnessed in the stage performances.
Jersey Boys is a great show to go and see a hugely talented cast and crew. The music is uplifting and the story line full of surprises. I am 24 but know the songs of the era well. There were a few surprises however, and quite a few songs you know well but don’t necessarily know that they were originally penned by Bob Gaudio and performed by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
Jersey Boys is a feel good, lively show. There is some strong language, so perhaps not for littlies, but it’s definitely one for the aunties, uncles, mums and dads out there. My favourite song? Beggin’…Toe tapping, head nodding fun!
2nd February 2011