EmptyPrince Edward Theatre, London
Through Oct. 18
"Jersey Boys," the pop musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons that traveled from the La Jolla Playhouse to a long Tony Award-winning Broadway run, has made it to London's West End with a British cast and it's great to finally see what all the fuss is about.
Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice constructed a sturdy platform to tell the story of four kids from the neighborhood who were determined to escape the clutches of poverty and crime. Not entirely to escape, as the mob's tentacles intruded along the way to make life difficult, but to win fame and riches.
Director Des McAnuff and the rest of the Broadway creative team are all on board and they've found a terrific cast of U.K. performers to carry the torch. Ryan Molloy's grasp of the Valli sound is uncanny and he is able to convey not only the growth of the character but also the increasing richness of his vocals.
Stephen Ashfield is engagingly bluff as Bob Gaudio, the songwriter who came along at just the right time to carry the boys to the top of the pop world. Philip Bulcock captures the insouciance of Nick Massi, whose appetite for pop glory waned along the way. And Glenn Carter gives tough guy Tommy DeVito, who pushed the group forward but gave in too easily to the temptations along the way, the right degree of swagger.
Like most jukebox musicals, the show scrimps on scenery and choreography but that doesn't matter as it has some smart and informative video and cartoon projections. The focus is tight on the band members and the drama is enhanced greatly by the lighting design of deserved Tony winner Howard Binkley.
Above all, the 33 songs with all the hits including "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," "Working My Way Back to You" and "Rag Doll" are put across in sensational fashion.
Some critics here wonder if the backstory will interest U.K. theatergoers but whereas many couldn't tell Arkansas from Utah, New Jersey is Sinatra, Nicholson and Springsteen. They know.
Presented by Dodger Theatricals, Joseph J. Grano, Tamara and Kevin Kinsella and Pellican Group
Book: Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Music: Bob Gaudio
Lyrics: Bob Crewe
Director: Des McAnuff
Choreographer: Sergio Trujillo
Musical supervisor: Ron Melrose
Scenic designer: Klara Zieglerova
Costume designer: Jess Goldstein
Lighting designer: Howard Binkley
Sound designer: Steve Canyon Kennedy
Projection design: Michael Clark
Frankie Valli: Ryan Molloy
Bob Gaudio: Stephen Ashfield
Nick Massi: Philip Bulcock
Tommy DeVito: Glenn Carter
Bob Crewe: Simon Adkins
Mary Delgado: Suzy Bastone
Francine: Michelle Francis
Joe Pesci: Jye Frasca
Gyp DeCarlo: Stuart Milligan