Jersey Boys – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
by Fran Winston
Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin 2
Runs Until November 21. Nightly at 7.30pm with matinees on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm. tickets from €21.
Thanks to Frankie Valli’s soaring falsetto and Bob Gaudio’s catchy songs The Four Seasons became one of the biggest bands of the 60s who managed to segway into the 70s when many other bands didn’t. Their music still endures today and is frequently covered and sampled. Indeed, a version of the band featuring lead singer Frankie Valli, now 88, still tours.
However, a stellar career alone is not enough to merit a stage show about a band. Behind the four happy faces peering out from record sleeves is a story of grifting, gangsters and gambling – oh and a future Hollywood star. While all bands think that their origin story is special I can’t think of any other that required so much ducking and diving in order to make it to the top.
This musical (which was turned into a big-screen offering by Clint Eastwood in 2014) doesn’t shy away from the less savoury aspects of the group’s origins while also treating the audience to the soaring songs and heavenly harmonies that became their trademark.
Songs such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Beggin’, Bye Bye Baby and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You are absolute classics. While you might come for the music you stay for the story and the fabulous performances. The vocals are such a huge part of this show (indeed the original actor to play Frankie back in 2005 actually damaged his voice performing the role) that each of the performers has to be in exceptional form. They are basically performing a complex concert every night while also embodying the characters and (in some cases) playing instruments. Each person on the stage is truly talented and the songs are absolutely spot on.
I’d seen this show a few times before on previous tours and the staging was more complex but in this version, it’s quite simplistic and often is just the four guys and microphones alongside some roll-on props. This keeps the focus on the story and the music and the audience that was there the night I attended was fully immersed in it. They gave rousing cheers from very early on in the show – something which is highly unusual – and knew the words to every single track. None of the music seems shoehorned in as so often happens in this sort of show and it is a roller coaster ride through an extremely complex story.
Despite the sometimes dark subject matter, this is a high octane and, dare I say it given some of the subject matter, uplifting show. My friend left the theatre singing the songs as did many of the audience members, which is always a sign of a good evening. Just a note though that some of the more unsavoury elements of the story do mean that this show isn’t advised for anyone under the age of 12.