At least, not when they are lucky enough to be sent to review Jersey Boys at the Edinburgh Playhouse they don’t.
I knew very little about the back story to this musical, and even after looking the subject matter up on Wikipedia all I knew was that it was about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, recognised loads of the names of the songs and realised it had something to do with New Jersey.
None of which prepared me for the sheer force of entertainment that is the Jersey Boys. From curtain up, the gritty beginnings of the Four Seasons are captured on stage by some very talented and personable young men including Tim Driesen as Frankie Valli and Stephen Webb as Tommy DeVito.
Jersey Boys takes the audience through the story of the band, as told through the eyes of the four original members, in four separate seasons. This method of storytelling was appropriate since the writers kept getting different stories when interviewing the original band members, and it gives the show a very real feel.
As Stephen Webb says, ‘These guys were small-time criminals, headed for the army or the mob – this was a way out for them.’ Of course their shady histories make for a fascinating storyline now, but that would not have been the case in the Fifties.
The show is very slick and employs quite a few clever motifs, utilising the stark industrial bones of the set. At one point the focus of the stage changes 180 degrees, giving the audience a glimpse of what it feels like to be backstage at a sell-out stadium concert! Sell-out being the operative term, we were there on a Thursday afternoon and more than 3000 seats were filled in the Playhouse.
And I haven’t even mentioned the singing. Frankie Valli was responsible for popularising the falsetto style of pop-singing which is now so familiar, used by the Beach Boys, the Beatles and many others since then. At the time, his voice was revolutionary and changed the sound of pop music for ever – as Tim Driesen says, ‘People come for the music and stay for the show.’