Written By: Mark Armstrong
Genre: Comedy Musical
Date: September 13 2018
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
I was intrigued by the possibility of seeing this tribute to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, but given the world-class reputation of the Jersey Boys theatre show (which you can see a full review of by clicking here), I was hoping that this production would not underwhelm by trying to be a poor copy. As it turns out, The Jersey Beats take a different route which, combined with excellent comedy from Leye D Johns, made for a thoroughly entertaining evening.
The show begins with a backdrop of voices introducing Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, with the American band singing “Sherry” followed by a couple of other hits, mixed with some strong dance moves by the Viva Showgirls.
The elements of this show originated from, and still perform weekly in, Blackpool (the parent company are Viva Blackpool), and a big reason for their success comes from Leye D Johns. As host, he came on to begin a comic introduction of what to expect. He has an outrageous, flamboyant and self-deprecating style, and the audience may not have necessarily been expecting this, which of course only made his hilarious routine even funnier.
The group reappeared to perform the usual familiar songs from the early years, explaining as they went along what was happening with the band at the time. We also were treated to some solo performances, along with some humorous interludes involving D Johns, who was trying to join in for an acapella performance and later a rendition of Grease Is The Word. All I’ll see is that he was dressed as the Lion King, as he was apparently going to a reunion for that show!
The backdrops were of a few video clips, some showing song lyrics or news stories of the time, with very credible performances by both the singers and the dancers. The first half ended with a big rendition of Big Girls Don’t Cry, which went down a treat with the audience (more on this shortly).
Into the second half, it took a few songs to make things memorable again, though the three girls took centre stage and were very good during their vocal performances, boosted by costumes that were authentic for the era. More comedy then followed as Leye D Johns gave us further insights into his daily life, leaving us all in stitches, as well as his brief cameo as “John Travolta” which had to be seen to be believed! Solos of My Eyes Adored You and Fallen Angel were highlights, and the night ended with more classic hits, in particular Bye Bye Baby and Walk Like A Man.
The audience by this time were encouraged to dance in the aisles (is this a first for the auditorium?), and they were also allowed to take photos and videos throughout. They definitely enjoyed themselves, but perhaps too much: it was a shame that a small number of attendees seemed to think that the performers were speaking or singing solely to them by repeated heckles, irrelevant running commentary and even whistling throughout entire songs, which dampened the mood for this writer (so much so that I changed seats for the second half). It’s a shame that a bigger audience weren’t on hand, actually, because it was a show that deserved to perform before large crowds.
On that note, I felt it was a wise decision to incorporate comedy; it was unusual, but it paid off, and it made the show one that I would highly recommend. There were minor production snafus (at one point a song ended with the performers stood silent, only for the lighting and music changes for the next song to take so long that it created an awkward atmosphere momentarily), and at one point the dry ice was a bit overwhelming, but otherwise this was a lot of fun, for both fans of Jersey Boys and anyone who enjoys old-school and risqué comedy from Leye D Johns, who I will definitely look to see perform again in the future.
Overall, this was a great night out; without the comedy, it may have been considered as just another tribute show by some, but with the comedy, it was a lot of fun and with plenty of variety. By the end, those on hand were still demanding more, which sums things up nicely. Oh What A Nite indeed!
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent