Reviewed by Brodie Smith.
Set in New Jersey in the 60s, Jersey Boys follows the story of four young men - Tommy DeVito, Bobby Gaudio, Nick Massi and Frankie Valli and the experiences they lived through being in a band that flew to success. After much debate over their name, a 'sign' allowed the boys to settle with ‘The Four Seasons’. Told through the four perspectives of the band members, their differences are highlighted as each narrative comes with a season (Tommy - Spring, Bobby - Summer, Nick - Fall, and Frankie - Winter). This biographical musical maps their lives, both as individuals and as a quartet navigating the trials and pitfalls of the music industry - from their humble beginnings in The Silhouette Cafe, to the Rock'n'Roll hall of fame. The individual nuances of each character are brilliantly brought to life in a very naturalistic way by - Michael Watson (Frankie), Lewis Griffiths (Nick), Simon Bailey (Tommy) and Declan Egan (Bobby). From the accents to the dancing to the guitars - every detail has been thought through. Special commendation must go to Tara Young playing Mary Delgado, Frankie’s wife and mother of his children, and Joel Elferink who plays camp music producer,Bob Crewe, both bringing a change of pace and comedic flair to the show.
The stage itself is sparse but effective, utilising a raised walkway accessible by two spiral staircases. Various crucial set pieces are lowered to allow for the quick scene changes that are necessary. The use of colour and lighting is particularly fantastic. The New Jersey silhouette against the backlight sky is particularly effective, especially when paired with the chain link fence. The lighting perfectly complements the mood onstage and adds colour and fun to the raw metal of the set. Whilst some scenes like the ‘December, 1963’ and ‘My Eyes Adored You’ are visually excellent, it seems that more focus was put into some songs and not others.
The decision to put the drummer onstage is an interesting one. Sitting upstage centre on a platform that moves around the stage, he is at times distracting, pulling the focus from the storyline. This production has very effectively coordinated their musicians into the fabric of the show, having them appear and play onstage in various scenes throughout.
The costume could be a tricky thing to make exciting in this particular setting, given the majority of choice for the cast consists of 60s suits. However the move from rag-tag New Jersey boys to sell-out musical stars is easily mapped through their increasingly more glam suit jackets: from golf polos to the iconic red jackets to sleek black with glitter adored collars.
The use of screen projections within the production is good, explaining more of the story through historically appropriate pop art stills; alluding to famous works of the time by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein. The use of ‘videos’ of ‘the four seasons’ and old footage from music audiences is at times a bit jarring to the narrative but nonetheless a fun modern addition on the play, injecting more colour into the set. Similarly a few of the set pieces were standout - namely the recording studio window and the Crewe’s yellow sofa - the less believable being the car and cushioned armchair.
The performances of the four leads at times could be subdued, but this created a relaxed atmosphere. Toning down the razzle-dazzle often found in musical theatre suited the storyline and audience. An enjoyable experience and worth the watch.
Jersey Boys runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 2nd March 2019.