The Trafalgar Theatre has re-opened as one house again after years of having a main theatre with a difficult rake and a basement one for small productions. The latter will be missed as it was a useful West End home for hits on the fringe. The main house will not. However the restored theatre is welcome and has excellent leg room and a small lift for those who need to avoid stairs.
But to the show. This is a new production if the 2005 Tony Award winning Broadway show. It came to London in 2008 and ran for nine years first at the Prince Edwardtheatre and then the Piccadilly theatre, winning the Olivier Award for Best Musical. It is arguably the greatest of all the so-called juke box musicals and this splendid revival directed by Des McAnuff does full justice to the tale of how some Jersey boys who had a group acquired the teenage Frankie with the extraordinary voice and, after a series of mishaps, joined up with songwriter Bob Gaudio who penned most of their hit. Their story is fascinating, the clash of temperaments amazing, and each takes his turn to tell it as it was for him and the stories are by no means identical. The groups hit songs are belted out with power and musicality and Ben Joyce as Valli makes an amazing West End debut. He sounds just like Frankie, although how long he can keep singing like him without destroying his voice is anybody’s guess.
Press night had a slightly wonky start as there was something wrong with the sound system.The songs came across fine but the dialogue was distinctly blurry. However after about ten minutes at most it was all sorted out and from then on this show, drilled to within an inch of its life, went from on ovation to the next. It has re-opened the Trafalgar in style and while it is not as large in scale as the version that ran for nine years there is no feeling of things being skimped. The cast play the supporting roles perfectly, there is a terrific band under musical director Katy Richardson and as the Four Seasons, the name they decided on just as they started to make the grade, Ben Joyce, Adam Bailey, Karl James Wilson and Benjamin Yates could not be bettered. This is the West End musical theatre at its very best.
Frankie Valli: Ben Joyce.
Bob Gaudio: Adam Bailey.
Nick Massi: Karl James Wilson.
Tommy DeVito: Benjamin Yates.
And the rest – Elliot Allinson, Koko Badigara, Melanie Bright, Jack Campbell, Carl Douglas, Ben Irish, Mark Isherwood, Matteo Johnson, Huon Mackley, Jacob Macintosh, Bonnie Page, Andy Smith, Helen Ternent.
Director: Des McAnuff.
Choreographer: Sergio Trujillo.
Musical Director: Katy Richardson.
Scenic Design: Klara Zieglerova.
Constume Design: Jess Goldstein.
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley.
Sound Design: Steve Canyon Kennedy.
Production Photographs: Mark Senior.