Tag Archives: Ryan Molloy

Jersey Boys – New cast – 24th March 2013

24 Mar

I am just back from seeing the new cast of Jersey Boys and although I was planning to get a review of Once done first i feel like I should write down my thoughts now while they are still fresh in my memory.

As some of you will know I have been a regular at Jersey Boys since the show started. That means I have seen five casts come and go. A new cast always needs time to settle in and there’s usually the odd one or two people in it who’s portrayal of a part is not to my taste. That’s natural and I have never let this affect my overall enjoyment of the show.

So here I am with Jersey Boys cast number six. Before I start I want you all to know that Jersey Boys has been a vital part of my life for the last five years. I love that show dearly. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

Ryan Molloy continues to lead the cast as Frankie Valli. He’s the Jersey Boys veteran having been with the show right from the start. He gets accused of looking bored on stage now and then and while I do think he has good and not so good days I have nothing but praise for his performance. Even on a not so good day he delivers a top class performance. His voice is flawless and he is a born performer and entertainer. I adore his Frankie, simple as that.

Jon Boydon plays Tommy DeVito for the fourth year. His portrayal is spot on and he gives the show a kind of security. Jon has been a tower of strength during the last three years an he continues to be just that in his year number four.

Edd Post has take over the part of Bob Gaudio after understudying the role for a year. His singing is good yet not amazing which is especially noticeable in “Oh what a night” which lacks strength. Personally I don’t like all of his acting choices. His Bobby comes across as very confident right from the start which means there’s no real development in the character’s behaviour throughout the show. His acting doesn’t seem natural to me sometimes and I am missing proper chemistry between him and Ryan.

David McGranaghan is Nick Massi. Personally I have yet to find someone who can compete with Philip Bulcock’s Nick. But I have so far enjoyed at least parts of the performance of every Nick Massi I’ve seen. Nick has to be likeable. He is the “outsider” in the group despite being one of Frankie’s closest friends and mentor. Yet he is the one the audience needs to fall for – the guy that never really fit in but was such a vital part of the group nevertheless.
My problem with David’s Nick is quite simple: For me he is not likeable. His Nick is like a stubborn teenager who is sulking because he doesn’t get his way. I don’t feel for him, I just want to tell him to pull himself together.

Will Barratt is in my eyes the best addition to the cast. His Bob Crewe is camp without losing his authenticity. It’s nice to see a portrayal of the part again that I can actually relate to. Bob Crewe has been such a vital part of the band’s history. It’s important to not let him lose his dignity by turning him into a walking joke.

The rest of the cast does a good job. I can’t fault the individuals – they handle their parts well. Rebecca Jayne Davies is a rather feisty but cute Francine and Mark Halliday makes a good Donnie & Knuckles. Ben Evans who is now back in the cast, is still a great Joey (on this occasion – the part is usually played by Ben Jennings). And it is nice to see Chris Gardner get an extra appearance right at the start of the show when he takes on the little dance part usually performed by the person playing Bob Crewe.

However, all of this brings me to one major point – Jersey Boys needs a cast that works well together and has great onstage chemistry. After the previous four cast changes I have always felt that chemistry straight away. It’s like a sparkle that makes you aware of what a tight company you are watching.
Sitting in the theatre tonight I realised this sparkle was missing. I was watching the show that has meant so much to me for five years and it just didn’t feel right. There was little chemistry between the four leads. You could catch Ryan turning to Edd during a song and Edd just staring straight ahead and not even acknowledging Ryan. That’s just one example but it stands for what I was missing while watching the show. There was no real bond between the four leads.
That combined with the – in my opinion – not too fitting acting choices of the two new guys resulted in a lack of heart and soul in the show.

Of course, the new cast is still settling in and I’m sure they will work together better with time. But I have to be honest, I was just disappointed after watching the performance tonight. This is not the show I fell in love with. This was just another musical and nothing special.

It saddens me to say this but I won’t be rushing back to see the show again soon. Yes, I will watch it again at some point because after all some of my favourite performer are still in the cast. I won’t stop supporting them and their work. But I won’t be a regular visitor like I used to be over the past five years.

For me this is the end of an era and I’m quite simply devastated (I know that sounds rather dramatic speaking of nothing more than a West End musical). I want nothing but the best for this show and I wish I could keep loving it the way I used to.

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2012 – A look back

31 Dec

With 2012 coming to an end I thought it was time to look back at the past 12 months and sum up my theatre related highlights of the year. And what a year this has been! I have had the opportunity to discover new shows, keep re-visiting my favourite shows, spend time with some amazing people, travel to places I haven’t been to before and – thanks to this blog – share my views on shows and theatre in general with all you guys.

It’s impossible to name each and every fantastic theatre moment – there are just way too many. But I want to mention a few that have had a special impact for various reasons. Lets start with my show highlights.

First of all one of my all time favourites is still going strong: Jersey Boys. That show has been a huge part of my theatre life since 2008 and I’m happy I got to visit the boys and girls in Jersey a lot during 2012. Obviously I have my favourites in every part but all in all the whole cast of this show is doing such an amazing job. They are the reason I will never get bored of the show. A special thank you goes out to Ryan Molloy (you are totally mad but I love you for it), Jon Boydon, Ben Wheeler, Mike Conway, Matt Wycliffe, Eugene McCoy, Mark Isherwood and TeeJaye. You guys are amazing!

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Another show that has had a huge impact on my 2012 is Les Miserables. Thank’s to (mainly) Ramin Karimloo I ended up seeing that show around 25 times between January and March 2012. Ramin’s Jean Valjean was quite simply one of the most stunning things I have ever seen in a show – breathtakingly fantastic all around. And his final show is definitely in the top three of my favourite theatre performances of 2012.

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Next up is a show I wish I could have seen more often than just twice. But sadly a limited run (clashing with the Olympics as well) prevented me from that. It is, of course, Mack and Mabel which was staged at the Southwark Playhouse this summer. This show was such a perfect production, from set and choreography right through to the cast (led by the wonderful Norman Bowman and Laura Pitt-Pulford).

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A show that restored my faith in musical theatre was Singin’ in the rain at the Palace Theatre. Shows like this are the reason I fell in love with musical theatre in the first place – from the dancing to the story to the amazingly talented cast, there’s no weak link in this production. I adore that show and it’s on my list of shows to see a lot more often in 2013.

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One of the smallest yet most enjoyable shows I have seen this year is Boy meets Boy at Jermyn Street Theatre. My reason to book tickets was Stephen Ashfield who I always enjoy to see on stage. I ended up loving this gem of a musical and would be thrilled to see it get another run sometime in the future.

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There were so many other shows I enjoyed (and still enjoy) watching. I can’t name them all but if you’ve been reading my blog and maybe even follow me on Twitter you probably have a basic idea anyway.

I’ll go on with some gig highlights of 2012.

The ones that had the biggest impact on me (and my travel diary) are Ramin Karimloo’s Road to find out concerts in May 2012. Without this tour I would never have ended up visiting cities like Newcastle, Cardiff and Birmingham. The tour consisted of 10 concerts and I am proud to say I managed to attend 7 of them – not bad considering I was flying over from Germany all the time. Was it worth it you may ask? Oh yes! I had a brilliant time. It was wonderful to see Ramin explore this new chapter in his career and I hope he continues to be successful with what he enjoys so much – making music.

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Some slightly smaller but still memorable concerts were the Bloomfield Avenue gigs at Roadhouse, Covent Garden on various Sundays throughout 2012. If you haven’t heard of that band I urge you to check them out: http://www.bloomfieldavenueband.co.uk/. They are currently looking for a new London venue for 2013 so watch out for any upcoming gigs.

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And finally some personal highlights that will remain a special memory of 2012 for me.

I still remember how thrilled I was when Dean Chisnall was promoted to playing the lead in Shrek the musical. I have known Dean for several years and I am proud to call such a wonderful and talented person my friend. And trust me when I say: Dean is by far the most dedicated performer you will ever meet. He so deserved to have a lead part in a big West End show and this year he finally achieved just that. It fills me with joy to see Dean on stage in such an iconic theatre as Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Here’s to more fantastic parts in great shows in the future!

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Tim Howar taking over as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages is yet another highlight of 2012. I first saw Tim on stage in Tonight’s the night (the Rod Stewart musical – some of you may remember it) in 2003 and fell in love with his voice straight away. Tim has to be one of the kindest people on this planet. I feel privileged to know him and I’m beyond happy that he is back on stage in the West End where he belongs.

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My charity auction in aid of The Brain Research Trust was by far the most challenging theatre related project this year. Lots of emails, walking around the West End collecting posters and programmes and generally a lot of organisational work – but it was all so worth it. I couldn’t have done it without all the support from various lovely people (thank you again – you know who you are). It was great to see what a wonderful community the theatre world really is.

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So, all that’s left now is a look out for what is to come in 2013. There are so many things I’m already looking forward to. In no particular order:

1. Once the musical
2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
3. Book of Mormon
4. Seeing MiG Ayesa and Jenna Lee James in the We will rock you arena tour
5. Seeing my lovely friend Björn Klein play Emmett in Legally Blonde in Vienna
6. Seeing Peter Johansson as Stacee Jaxx in Stockholm
7. Finally seeing Ben Whishaw live on a theatre stage
9. Watching The Bodyguard again (slightly addicted I fear…)
10. Generally continuing to support my favourite performers

… the list goes on…

With that I will leave you for 2012. Thank you for sticking with me throughout the year. I really appreciate your support for my little blog. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep you entertained with more reviews and other theatre related posts in 2013 (watch out for my review of The Bodyguard which is coming up as soon as possible).

Happy new year everyone! I hope 2013 brings you all you ever wished for. Keep in touch – comment, tweet or email me. I love to hear from you guys. x

Jersey Boys new cast as of March 2012

13 Apr

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.

Jersey Boys London, September 18th 2011

22 Sep

Yes, I am a Jersey Boys regular. I’ve been watching the show since July 2008 and have since then seen it more than 100 times (and no, that is no typo!). Jersey Boys is one of those shows that I can see again and again without getting bored. It has a gripping story, fantastic songs and is in my eyes almost flawless.

For all of you that have managed to avoid a trip to Jersey so far: The show tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (with a certain artistic freedom). The fact that it is not just a made up tale but in general the true history of real people is one of the reasons I’m fascinated by this musical. I remember the first time I went to watch Jersey Boys – I had no idea what to expect, all I had seen until then where clips online that had made me want to see the man with the fabulous voice on stage: Ryan Molloy (funny enough he was off sick on my first visit). It only took this one visit to get me hooked. So ever since that day Jersey Boys is on my “to see” list whenever I travel to London.

Once you’ve watched a show a certain amount of times you enjoy a few of change now and then. At least that’s what applies to me. So I am always up for understudy shows at Jersey Boys and I tend to book especially to see certain understudies on stage now and then.

The latest addition to those understudy shows happened on September 18th 2011. I do love Jon Boydon’s Tommy DeVito and I honestly miss Jon whenever I see the show and he’s not there but Ben Wheeler’s Tommy will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s probably a little due to the fact that he was my first ever Tommy back in 2008. But then he’s also a completely awesome performer. His Tommy is the perfect mix of dangerous and flirty, something that is quite hard to achieve. Plus I can basically see what his Tommy is thinking from every little facial expression and gesture. He doesn’t just act from script, he puts life into his performance. Ben’s Tommy is not just a one dimensional bully which makes it so interesting to see the characters development throughout the show.
What made this specific Sunday matinee even better was Mark Isherwood’s Nick Massi. He plays Nick exactly like he should be played (in my eyes at least). Nick Massi is a very defined and rather quiet character with a lot of style so for me it is important that he isn’t portayed as a joke figure. And unfortunately that can happen quite quickly with Nick wanting to “start his own group” all the time and doing the infamous “towel” speech in act 2. Mark’s Nick oozes charisma, simple as that. He’s elegant and laid back which is exactly why said towel speech comes across as a real outbreak of “the quiet one”. And I’d like to add that Mark’s smile really lights up the stage – such amazing stage presence! He needs to be on more often (who do I have to bribe??).
Matt Wycliffe always amazes me with the pure energy he puts into his performance. His Bob is very calm and collected yet he almost explodes (not literally!) with energy during the group songs and “Oh what a night”. And just how beautiful is that voice?! I will always miss Stephen Ashfield as Bob Gaudio, after all I’ve seen him in the show for 3 years. But I’m so glad they found Matt to replace Stephen and I honestly adore his Bob Gaudio.
Who’s missing? The one and only Mr. Molloy, of course. What can I say? He’s the man! I’ve never seen a performer like him on stage before. The guy is amazingly talented and if you ask me his voice is actually better than Frankie Valli’s. Plus Ryan is a born entertainer and that definitely shows in his performance. I sometimes wish he could just completely go for it and – for example – sing “Beggin” like he often does at promotional appearances (those riffs are awesome!!).
I seriously hope this wasn’t the first and last time I have seen these four guys on stage together. Their stage chemistry was fantastic and it was obvious they were having a great time performing together.

Wayne Smith as Bob Crewe always is a highlight in every Jersey Boys performance I attend. Yes, I loved Simon Adkin’s Bob Crewe and I always will. But Wayne really has made the character his own. His Bob Crewe has dignity and that is the most important thing everyone playing this part has to achieve. Bob Crewe was such a vital and important part in the history of the Four Season. As funny as his behaviour in the show is (all that “the stars are in alignment” stuff and so on) he can’t be portrayed as a walking joke. And Wayne manages this perfectly. I love his Bob Crewe and beside Matt Wycliffe he is my favourite addition to the Jersey Boys family.
Chris Gardner is doing a good job as Hank Majewski but I have to say he still doesn’t really covince me in the part. His Hank just seems a bit bland but then the part itself is not exactly the most exciting in the show. I have seen his Bob Gaudio and I really enjoyed his performance in that part so it’s probably rather the character’s than Chris’ fault that I just can’t warm to his Hank.
Jake Samuels has really grown into his role over the last few months. It’s no secret that I miss Joseph Prouse’s Norman Waxman dearly though. Joseph just had some kind of sparkle that Jake unfortunately lacks. He’s really good as Nick Massi though and I hope I get to see him in that part again.
Paul Iveson was on as Donnie/Knuckles. He did well but for some reason Paul never totally amazes me. He is good in every part I’ve seen him in but he hasn’t managed to work his way up to be my favourite in any of them.
Carl Au has developed so much since he started in the show. When I first saw him as Joey Pesci I thought he was way too insecure and not funny at all. But now he’s definitely settled into the role. Seeing his Frankie Valli is still on my list.
The three girls on stage always tend to stand in the shadow of the boys which is a shame. Rachael Wooding’s Mary Delgado is feisty and full of energy. She’s definitely my favourite since Suzy Bastone. Charlie Bull as Lorraine has grown a lot in the role over the last 1,5 years. Her Lorraine is more vulnerable now which makes me feel for the character. And Lauren Hall is by far the best Francine I have seen in the show. It’s fantastic to see what she makes of such a small role. When Francine phones her dad in act 2 I cannot help but wonder what must have happened to that girl to make her so fearful and insecure, something that has never happened to me with any of the other girls I’ve seen as Francine.

Only downside of this performance were certain people in the audience. Don’t you just hate it when people talk loudly during the show? And if you read this, yes I mean you, the two middle aged guys in the second row. So inconsiderate and just plain rude.
But even that can not prevent me from saying that this was one of the best performances of Jersey Boys I have seen in the last couple of months and I was once again reminded why I’ve seen it so many times. I truly love this show and as long as it is running in the West End I will be back for more.

Jersey Boys is showing at the Prince Edwards Theatre. For more info go to http://www.jerseyboyslondon.com/

Next theatre trip coming up….

14 Sep

Been a bit quiet but unfortunately too much work and nasty shoulder problems have prevented me from any freetime writing. Will make up for that with some reviews soon.

So, my next theatre trip is coming up. I’ve got quite a few shows booked so hopefully there will be something for everyone once I’ve managed to review all of them. In case anyone wants a first taste, here’s the list of what’s to come:
Anna Christie (bit of Jude Law can’t be wrong!)
Les Miserables (hoping both Alfie Boe and Hadley Fraser will be on as scheduled)
Jersey Boys (twice – once with Jon Lee and once with Ryan Molloy as Frankie)
Parade (because I finally want to see that one on stage after missing the Donmar production and because Simon Bailey is in it)
Rock of Ages or Shrek (Rock of Ages is my first choice as I haven’t seen it yet but if I miss out on day seats for that I’ll try and get a ticket for Shrek)

And last but not least I shall attend the second West End Rockaoke at Roadhouse, Covent Garden on Sunday Sept 18th. The first one back in June was lots of fun so hopefully this one will be a great night out as well. Bloomfield Avenue are playing – if you haven’t heard of them go check them out now: http://www.bloomfieldavenueband.co.uk/ – and there will be performers from various West End shows.

Anyone who’s in town and free on Sunday evening should definitely consider coming down to Roadhouse. Doors open around 6pm and you get 2 for 1 drinks until 7:30pm. Rockaoke starts around 8pm.
Put your name on the guestlist as it tends to get busy (and you wouldn’t want to queue outside and maybe miss out on the 2 for 1 drinks, would you?): http://www.roadhouse.co.uk.

So, I’ll speak to you all next week! xx