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  • The Jersey Boys at The Prince Edward Theatre
    by Cornelia at 10:32 on 29 December 2010
    The Jersey Boys makes for a very enjoyable theatre experience; there are no musical duds or weak scenes in this slice of American pop history. An opening version of 'Oh What a Night' (Ces soirees-la) in French underlines the international appeal of The Four Seasons at the height of their fame.

    Second generation Italian immigrants from New Jersey, Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nack Massi formed a musical group and, calling themselves The Four Seasons, achieved record selling hits with 'Sherry', 'Earth Angel' 'Walk like a Man', Big Girls Don't Cry' ,'Let's Hang On (to What We've Got) and others in the late fifties/ early sixties.

    'I never heard a voice like Frankie Valli's', says Bob Claudio. That spine-tingling voice is the secret of the group's success, backed up by the close harmony of a strong instrumental trio of guitars and percussion, here very accurately reproduced by an English cast. Claudio seems to have been spot-on in judging the tastes of the record-buying public.

    The musical traces the history of the group, allowing each member to tell his version, starting with the early days of petty street crime , when Frankie escaped jail only because he was underage when arrested for driving a getaway car. Internecine face-offs and the fissures in family life caused by months on tour punctuate the songs, material that's familiar from Hollywood biopics, here more relevant because of the grounding in a harsh social context.

    As with many modern musicals, the set is minimal -a metal bridge that recalls the prison house of the early scene and turns into a walkway for the singers at the height of their fame. It means there's a reliance on lighting which consistently meets the challenge. It includes a spectacularly dazzling performance seen from a backstage viewpoint at the end of the first act, literally demonstrating the audience acclaim the group achieved at that time.

    Ryan Molloy as Frankie received an Olivier nomination for Best Actor and won the 'What's on Stage' People's Choice Award for Best Actor in a Musical. So good are the supports, it's a wonder he's not overshadowed. Bob Gaudio as the composer bowled over by Frankie's voice brings a quiet confidence to the role of a man who has found the perfect medium to deliver his talent.Jon Boydon as Tommy de Vito impresses as a swaggering quick-decision man-in-charge. My personal favourite is Nick Massi, the oddball fall-guy of group, played by Eugene McCoy in a performance that reminded me of 'Trigger' in Only Fools and Horses. A welcome comic cameo, deferential among the divas, was provided by Jye Frasca as Joe Pesci, the man responsible for introducing the early group to Bob Claudio.

    I'd recommend this if, like me, you'll recognise the musical background to your teenage years or if you want to learn more about a time and place that produced such an amazing amount of musical talent. Or if you just enjoy a good musical.