Rock-hard Jersey Boys
The convention of theatre criticism is that everyone notices a show’s opening. Few care about a closing. And fewer still care when a show rolls on night after massive-earning night all over the world.
Six years after its Broadway debut, Jersey Boys is one of the biggest theatrical hits of our time. Any TLS reader who is not a fan of Franky Valli and the Four Seasons (an easy group to find, I guess) will be barely aware that it exists.
Which perhaps does not matter except that when I saw it in London last week, it did trigger a few thoughts. Three years after opening here, the theatre was absolutely packed. The audience was permanently about to bounce out of the seats — and periodically did so. Not a whiff of recession anywhere. A terrific reminder that people will spend money if they are sure they are going to have a good time.
Certainty is often seen as akin to sterility. But the direction here was still as tight as a perfect first night. The cast was so well drilled you might think that a Chinese general was permanently parked in the stalls, any slightest deviation from the original will being punished by the Jersey Boys’ less savoury gangland characters.
There are many so-called ‘juke-box musicals’. But this one works — and has always worked — because of the simple technique of allowing each band-member to alternate in describing his disfunctional relationship with all the others. Nothing flashy — except the Seasons’ suits. Nothing soft or slack. a rhythmically adjusting point of view. I left feeling that I could come back in another decade and it would still, rock-solidly, be there.