Now, I must confess that I’m not what you’d call a big fan of the jukebox musical. For me, it’s all about the story, and narratives about a girl searching for her father on a Greek island or a young loner resurrecting rock’ n’ roll on a bizarre, Orwellian future Earth have held short shrift with me, albeit being set to great soundtracks. Give me tawdry tales of Argentinian and French revolutions any day.
However, the writers of Jersey Boys have taken the more old-fashioned route by setting the music to the struggles, failures and ultimate triumph of the group itself, a story of quite astonishing achievement and success in the face of adversity.
Unlike the rest of the Saga group, I didn’t realise just how many hits Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons had actually had. After sitting through about 40 minutes of surprisingly detailed vignettes about the origins of the group, we were finally treated to a blast of ‘Sherry’, their first number one hit.
From then on, the hits kept coming… ‘Walk Like a Man’, ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’, ‘Oh, What a Night’, ‘Stay’, ‘C’mon Marianne’, ‘Working My Way Back to You’ and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. Jon Lee’s stunning impersonation of Valli’s unique falsetto was quite unbelievable and the acting was superb all round.
After two hours of nostalgia, great music and, I’ll be honest, a fair amount of dancing and cheering from those sat around me in our group, the show ended to great applause and 60 Saga guests remained behind in the auditorium to meet the cast.
We started off with questions for Ben Wheeler, the understudy for Tommy DeVito during our performance, and he enlightened us all about the vital role of the understudy in musicals such as this. For Jersey Boys, there are three understudies for all roles and four for Frankie Valli.
It turns out that Ben understudies for an astonishing eight roles in the musical and the guests were pleased to hear he gets payed more than the others for essentially having to know every line, song, dance and move in the play.
And the questions kept coming from an enthralled group…
You really seemed to enjoy yourselves – are some nights better than others?
“Definitely, tonight was great. Weekends are always more rowdy – everyone’s had a few more drinks.”
The choreography that accompanied songs such as ‘Ragdoll’ was fantastic – was that how the Four Seasons actually danced?
“No, not at all. If you look at them (the Four Seasons) on YouTube, you’ll see that they had no rhythm at all. All of the dances and moves have been made up.”
How long does it take for someone to learn the musical?
“It takes a new cast member five weeks to learn from scratch – from then on, they should be ready to go on stage.”
With such a fast and furious show, you must be incredibly fit – how do you wind down after a performance?
“You just get used to it. We don’t usually end up in bed before 1.30 in the morning.”
You all speak with excellent American accents. Are there any words you had problems with?
“We have a voice coach from New York, who helps everyone with their accents, but we still have problems with certain words – ‘talk’ is one of them I still have a problem with. During the whorehouse scene today my brain was saying one thing but my mouth said another.”
After a while and more questions we were politely informed that after two performances and a grilling from the Saga guests, the actors really needed to get home and get their rest, so it was Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye) to the Jersey Boys, and trains and taxis for the rest of us.
We are delighted to announce details of our next Saga exclusive theatre event for LET IT BE, a spectacular theatrical concert jam-packed with over twenty of The Beatles' greatest hits.
For just £60 you can treat yourself to a top-price ticket to the evening performance of LET IT BE on October 10, as well as enjoying a complimentary interval drink and a private post-show performance from the band, exclusively for Saga customers.
If you can't make the Saga exclusive event, we also have a ticket only offer - top price seats at £52.50 (usual price £60) for performances on Monday, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. Valid Sep 14-Oct 25, 2012.
To book your place at this exclusive event, please call 0207 492 1560 - tickets for the exclusive event are currently unavailable to book online.