Now in its fifth year Jersey Boys is still pulling in the crowds at the Prince Edwards Theatre. Having been a regular at this show since 2008 I have seen casts come and go. And while it is often sad to see cast members leave it’s also exciting to have new performers find their own take on a role. It keeps a show fresh and interesting for both the people involved and the audience (especially the returning visitors).
Not too long ago I was asked which cast I have liked best at Jersey Boys so far. After thinking about this for a while I came to the conclusion that it was a tie between the second and third cast. I honestly can’t decide between those two with people like Philip Bulcock and Ashley Hale leaving after year 2 and Michael Conway and Jon Boydon joining when the show went into its third year. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like cast number 1 and 4 though. Each cast has been special in their own way.
And now there’s cast number 5 with a few new faces (and the return of an oh so familiar face).
The cast is still led by Ryan Molloy as Frankie Valli (or Jon Lee at certain performances) and although he has been in the show since day one Ryan still delivers a flawless performance. His Frankie connects perfectly with the other 3 main Jersey Boys and his vocals are nothing but amazing. He makes singing those high notes look completely effortless.
Jon Boydon, Matthew Wycliffe and Eugene McCoy also remain with the show. Jon and Eugene are now in their third year in the show while Matthew has just started his second year as Bob Gaudio. All three give strong performances and while Eugene’s portrayal of Nick will never be completely to my liking he definitely has made the part his own and I can understand why he is a favourite of the fans. Matthew has grown a lot in his role throughout the first year. His Bob Gaudio is determined and sincere with a hint of cheekiness. His voice is strong and clear and both Cry for me and Oh what a night have the audience captivated.
Jon Boydon’s Tommy is a bully. You don’t want to get into the way of that guy. And while I’ve always loved his dangerous Tommy I still miss the flirty and engaging side of Tommy in his portrayal. In my eyes Tommy is one of the most difficult characters in the show acting wise – it’s hard to find a balance between being dangerous and flirty.
A new member of the Jersey family is Dan Burton who plays Joey Pesci. I have seen Dan in a few other shows and he always comes across as being totally in control of the character he plays. And he makes no exception with Joey Pesci. I had the feeling he had been playing the part for years when I first saw him (which was in the first week of the new cast). His Joey is lively and a bit geeky and he catches the humor of the role perfectly.
Nicola Brazil joins the cast as Frankie’s wife Mary Delgado. The problem with Mary is she has to show off a certain ammount of arrogance but at the same time she has to be likable. Nicola does a great job in juggling those two characteristics. And I don’t remember the last time I have seen Ryan so engaged in the argument between Mary and Frankie just before My eyes adored you. Him and Nicola had me on the edge of my seat in that scene.
Howard Jones is playing Bob Crewe, the producer of the Four Seasons. I admit it must be hard to capture that character on stage. You have to find the right balance between the humor and the sincere and highly important figure Bob Crewe was in the history of the Four Season. As much as you may think “That guy is weird!” while watching the show you also have to understand how influential he was and what a big part he has played in the success of the band. Both Simon Adkins and Wayne Smith have managed to portray Bob Crewe perfecly – each in his own way and each without turning the character into a walking joke. Sadly Howard hasn’t achieved that yet. His Bob Crewe is in my opinion rather one dimensional and he is lacking a connection with the four main guys. He doesn’t manage to deliver the lines properly resulting in a lot of the witty punch lines being lost. He might just need time to settle into the part but the fact that both Simon and Wayne had the part down to a tee right from the start makes me rather pessimistic in this case.
Trina Hill has taken over as Francine after being a swing in the show for the past year. She has played the part on several occasions already so she technically isn’t new to it. She sings the only female song in the show (My boyfriend’s back) with a strong voice and her portray of Francine is solid. Compared to her antecessors she is lacking a bit in vulnerability. I prefer Francine to be a bit more fragile and Trina’s Francine seems rather tough throughout the show.
Returning to the show after a one year break is Tee Jaye as Barry Belson. I’ve never really warmed to Jo Servi’s Barry so to say I’m happy about Tee Jaye’s return would be an understatement. He manages to make me laugh while giving his character the needed amount of dignity and seriousness. Jersey Boys has regained so much with this new/old addition to the cast.
Staying with the show are Charlie Bull as Lorraine, Mark Carroll as Donnie/Knuckles, Chris Gardner as Hank, Stuart Milligan as Gyp DeCarlo, Jake Samuels as Norman Waxman and Swings Ben Wheeler, Michael Conway, Mark Isherwood and Lucinda Gill.
Joining as Swings are Edd Post, Ben Jennings and Gemma Whitelam.
Whilst I haven’t seen any of the new swings yet I was lucky enough to catch Mark Isherwood as Donnie lately (a part he only started covering a short while ago) and I can honestly say I have never been captivated by that part in such a way. It was almost impossible to look away from Mark whenever he was on stage. The tiny details he adds to his characters are simply amazing.
Jersey Boys remains one of my favourite shows in the West End. And although I miss several past cast members dearly I enjoy seeing new takes on the different parts in the show. After all that’s one of the things that make live theatre so interesting.
Jersey Boys is showing at the Prince Edward Theatre. For more info and to book tickets please visit http://www.jerseyboyslondon.com.