Slick as Oil, but Just as Slippery: Jersey Boys Review

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Cast of Jersey Boys. Photo Source: Grand Opera House Belfast

Alex Reid, Arts and Entertainments Co-Editor. 

There’s always a subtle anticipation and excitement before a show, but at the opening of Jersey Boys on Tuesday night at the Grand Opera House, the eagerness was palpable. The crowd was ready and waiting for what was, by all accounts, a very enjoyable night. However, if you’re not a fan of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, you’re not familiar with play, and stop to think about the story, things feel a lot less stable.

The production behind the show must be commended. Through both acts the sets were slickly swapped, swung, and slid across the stage to the beat of the omniscient drummer that sits at the back of the stage. The show rarely slows down, rollicking from scene to scene with admirable craftsmanship. Every movement, every dance move, every syllable of dialogue, is refined to a tee. The actor behind each member of the Four Seasons are efficient, proficient performers, using every beat to bring out a little more character.

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Cast of Jersey Boys. Photo Source: Grand Opera House Belfast

The backstage crew worked wonders for the entire duration. The performances were clear and well mixed for the large theatre. I had a sneaking suspicion that the songs were mimed, but as far as I’ve been able to research, it seems the performances were 100% candid. That too deserves commendation. An energetic spotlight tracks the characters across stage before blasting the entire theatre with stadium lights. This isn’t a tepid show.

However, the show loses its lustre a little if you’re not particularly invested in The Four Seasons. The overarching narrative seems less like a compelling story, and more as a flimsy framing device that functions as a convenient excuse to hear the audience’s favourite songs. If you’re a fan of the songs, this will work wonders. If you’re not, I doubt that the show is half as effective.

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Cast of Jersey Boys. Photo Source: Grand Opera House Belfast

Over the two hour show we watch the rapid rise of The Four Seasons and the tepid decline. It isn’t so much a decline as it is a series of easily avoidable obstacles that race to a particularly dramatic plot point before the final number. Nothing’s learned, nothing’s prospered. The story is functional at best, but when you can’t fall back onto the nostalgia and love for the music, you’re left with a sour taste.

That being said, this was a massive crowd pleaser. The energy was ecstatic in the theatre from start to finish. Everyone seemed to be very engaged and pleased with the entire production. The lengthy standing ovation at the end testifies to that.

I’m not overly convinced that the production makes a strong effort to convert new viewers, but for those familiar with the source material, Jersey Boys is exactly what they needed. A fun, rollicking, frenetic journey across mid to late 20th-Century pop. It’s just a shame that the potential of a powerful story is seemingly squandered in the wake of flashy transitions and more time for recognisable tunes.

Director: Des Mcanuff

Cast: Michael Watson, Simon Bailey, Declan Egan, NLewis Griffiths

Runtime: 2 hours

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