May 2, 2008

Jersey Boys Is Brilliant in London!

May 2nd, 2008

We’re thrilled to present Charly O’Clarit’s recap of her recent London JERSEY BOYS experience! This recap is the next best thing to being there! We will also be featuring a marvelous Q&A Charly had with Stephen Ashfield, Phillip Bulcock, Glenn Carter, and Ryan Molloy!

By Charly O’Clarit, Jersey Boys Blog Special Correspondent

London Heathrow Passport Control: “What is the nature of your business here in the United Kingdom?”

My Answer: “Jersey Boys”

There are not enough superlatives to describe the London production of Jersey Boys…simply put it is “BRILLIANT!”

Glenn Carter was outstanding playing the protagonist Tommy Devito. He skillfully played the dogmatic, combative and unscrupulous character while mixing in some comedic flair. Glenn was successful conveying the gritty, mean streets of New Jersey and established a frame of reference for the British audience. The following line was added “Yeah, Jersey’s great. We even got some of the finest prisons in America…and I speak from personal experience.” Also the following was added to describe the following persons:

Eisenhower’s the “President”
Rocky Marciano’s the “Heavyweight Champ”
Yeah, that Joe Pesci, the actor from the “Goodfellas”

The following line to me was noticeably absent: (As Ed Sullivan) “And now, right here on our stage…before we bring out the Vienna Boys choir and Topo Gigio…” Apparently, the British are not too familiar with Ed Sullivan.

Ryan Molloy is a very strong “Frankie” with his sweet, smooth, & angelic falsetto. He really captures that trademark “Valli” sound. Ryan is an established songwriter and recording artist who has worked with Sting and has fronted the 80’s group “Frankie Goes To Hollywood”. His vocal range is ideal to take on this challenging score. Ryan has beautiful tone and his deft control over the jazzy number “Moody’s Mood For Love” was particularly impressive I thought.

My favorite of his vocal performances was “My Eyes Adored You”, which was very heartfelt and executed with strong conviction. Ryan emoted every passionate lyric…. it was gorgeous.

You saw the magnitude of Ryan’s acting ability in the hospital scene. The frailty of the character was exemplified with the overwhelming sorrow in Ryan’s demeanor. “Fallen Angel” was especially poignant as Ryan’s voice quivered singing the lyric “I can see behind the tears” and looking out into the audience glassy eyed singing “You’re home again, so won’t you close the door?” The faint sobs in the theatre were heard abound.

I believe only one line was omitted from Frankie’s dialogue. It was “There’s a dead dago in it!” At intermission, I asked some of the British patrons if they knew what a “dago” is and the funniest answer, “Is it a new search engine?”

Ryan currently does not do the splits in “Beggin’”. He can do them but previously injured his hamstring. As soon as it is completely healed, production would like Ryan to work the splits back in.

Baby-faced Stephen Ashfield is the perfect boy genius “Bobby.” He has very expressive, innocent eyes. Through those eyes you can see that his mind is consistently thinking and analyzing. Stephen has a rich and elegant voice. “Cry For Me” was flawless as he hit every detailed note. His facial expressions when first introduced to Bob Crewe and “His personal first” were hilarious. I can only think of one change in the scenes with Stephen. In the Record Label Exec’s office, the reference to Neil Sedaka was changed to “Engelbert Humperdinck.”

The debonair Philip Bulcock made for a rather sexy “Nicky.” Even though he is the understated member of the group, Philip has robust stage presence and a strong resonating bass. What was surprising to me is that his third “Maybe this is a good time to start my own group”, his Ten Years rant, and his head nod thump on the table got more rampant applause than “But if there’s four guys, and your Ringo…”

Overall the London production is “TOP NOTCH!” All the musical numbers from the solos to the harmonies were so perfect that it sounded as if I was listening to an actual soundtrack recording. The acoustics were incredible. During concert scenes, I felt the bass pulsating on my chest. The acting was intense, especially with the physical exchanges with Frankie & Tommy i.e.: The rough housing before Tommy gives Frankie the keys to the Plymouth, the exchange after “You can get yourself another lead singer” and after “Ti stronzo dis graziato!”, there was more choreographed movement…was very realistic. I thought the “Joisey” accents were good…Stephen’s and Philip’s were spot on.

I saw the show three times and the audience’s reactions to all three were of pure exhilaration. At the “Oh What A Night” reprise everyone was up chapping, singing and dancing. What is great is that the audience(s) stayed until every last cast member and musician was off stage.

Besides the obvious chemistry on stage, the main four actors have cohesiveness off stage. At Stage Door, they’re the consummate English gentlemen or in the case of Stephen, a Scottish gentleman. Gracious, charming, funny, engaging and handsome all with mesmerizing blue eyes. Ryan, who is pupil of Katie Agresta, does a 30-45 minute vocal warm down so it takes him awhile to come out.

Miscellaneous Tidbits
Stage Door is located on Frith Street. From the lower stalls exit left, go two flights of stairs and you are there. The Prince Edward Theatre is surrounded by sidewalk cafes and is a great place to grab a bite and people watch. I met two Jersey Boys enthusiasts Lesley & Sarah that made the trip to the West End from Somerset. They were both lovely ladies with lots of energy. Lesley spotted Justin Lee Collins (JLC), a very famous British T.V personality across the street. Not more than five minutes later she spotted Emma Thompson examining café menus, settling on an Italian café right next to the JB stage door.

Playbills are not free. Programs are £3.50 ($7.00) and Souvenir programs are £5.00 ($10.00). The program features a great Frankie Valli questionnaire. Here are some of the questions and answers:

If you hadn’t become a musician, what would you have done for a living?
Answer: I would have been a hairdresser, stayed in the neighborhood and opened a little bar, or I would have gotten in trouble and been put away.

Q: What stage memory has you cringing with embarrassment?
A: I was performing and all off a sudden realized my fly was open.

Q: What’s the last theatrical performance you saw that you really loved?
A: Spring Awakening and Wicked.

Q: What’s your great online discovery?
A: The fact that I don’t go online.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I’m always working on several things at once. I’ve got a jazz project, and I’m working on a vocal project that I want to produce with four of the guys who are currently in my band so I can help them create a career beyond Frankie Valli.

Seating: In my opinion, the best seats are in the Stalls Rows F-H, Seats 12-22. The first two rows have an obstructed view since the stage is about five feet high. If the actors are on center stage you can only see torsos on up and if they are back of stage…you see absolutely nothing!

Original London Cast Recording: The OLC is hoping to do a cast recording. More than likely it will depend on how the show does at the next Laurence Olivier Awards (March 2009). I talked to many of the British audience and they are adamant that they want their own. The OLC recorded a version of “Beggin’” which will be included in a repackaged version of the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

Philip Bulcock will appear as “Detective Murphy” in the movie “Dark Knight”, out this summer. He shot the film for two weeks opposite the late Heath Ledger and is hopeful that his scenes will be intact.

Stephen Ashfield has provisionally booked holiday June 9th – 21st.


  1. Charly, thank you so much. What a great insight into the show and the cast. It’s so interesting to hear how they have adapted the show for the British audience. Thank you again for doing this. I’m sure it was hard work (yeah, right) :)

    Comment by Melissa — May 2, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

  2. Wow, Charly!

    What a fabulous write-up and photos of Jersey Boys’ London!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and telling us all about the show and the little tidbits about the stage door and the area.

    Just like the other Jersey Boys’ casts, the London group sounds great and as charming and talented as the rest of the guys. Those producers’ sure know how to pick ‘em!

    Glad you had a wonderful time.

    Comment by Dina F. — May 2, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  3. Nice recap. And glad to hear some news about a possible OLC recording. I hope the powers that be decide to and do a full one. Especially since it appears that London audiences want one.

    Comment by Mike — May 2, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  4. Oh, one more thing–I think it’s pretty cool how they have a specific poster for each “season”/guy at the theatre in London! I’ve never seen that before.

    Comment by Dina F. — May 2, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  5. Great recap, Charly! You are an incredible person! Seeing JB in every venue seems to be your mission! Good for you. IE

    Comment by irene eizen — May 2, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

  6. Great job Charly! I hope to see them someday!

    Comment by Krystal — May 2, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

  7. Hi Charly,

    Thanks for the great report and photos. Glad you had a great time.


    Comment by Tiggerbelle — May 2, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

  8. Wow ! That recap was pretty impressive Charly ! Congratulations for a job well done.

    Comment by Mila — May 2, 2008 @ 3:36 pm

  9. Charly,

    This was a fabulous recap and write up of the show and cast. Great detail and descriptions !! Thanks so much for giving us a real insiders view of the London Jersey Boys experience. I can’t wait to see the show in July, and will report back as well.


    Comment by Pamela — May 2, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

  10. Charly, this write-up is as beautiful as you are; thank you so much. Thanks too for detailing the changes…and the references…even in the US, Rocky Marciano was a tough one for anyone under 50, who know Rocky Balboa much better. Love the prison line. Wonder what the reaction was to “driving through a dump and a turnpike just to cheer for a team from NY anyway!”

    Now did you really say that at passport control? Whom was called for the bail money? But I assume when they asked if anyone in England could do your task (what I’m asked all the time), you proudly chanted “not a chance”, Susie was called for confirmation (glad she didn’t say “Charly O? Have no idea who she is!”) and the rest is history.

    Move over Ringo…it’ll soon be Charly who created a “dustup” across the pond. Just please, don’t adopt the Ringo hairstyle…..

    Engelbert Humperdinck was in the early Frankie era I guess. “Lulu” might have been funnier, especially since we could have related it to our own Jersey Boys’ superfan Lulu.

    Are those pajamas Stephen Ashfield is wearing in the pic with you? Maybe he was taking the bouncer’s “Bedtime!” command in the bar too seriously???

    Thanks for a great recap, my friend. This piece and you are an absolute delight, Charly.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — May 2, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

  11. One of the earlier London lines about New Jersey was that it was for jokes (how it smells and how they talk). Well, I guess if it doesn’t sound awkward to a UK audience then it doesn’t matter, but… ;)

    Comment by Leanna — May 2, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

  12. Charly – thanks for that excellent write-up! I too particularly enjoyed your recounting of how certain lines were changed, and your opener of how you responded at Heathrow to “What is the nature of your business here in the United Kingdom?” But as usual, Howard beat me to it. (I won’t even touch Stephen Ashfield’s pajamas, however. What happens in London stays in London, isn’t that what they say?)

    Sounds like you had a great visit – I envy you! The only thing is, I understand that every time you see JB, no matter when or where, Kathy Lee Gifford always shows up and sits right behind you. Oh, well – just ignore her.

    NOW can I have your autograph?:-)

    Comment by stubbleyou — May 3, 2008 @ 12:59 am

  13. Fabulous fabulous fabulous! If there was ever a JB Guide published for theatergoers, your comprehensive review will go right in there. In fact, I’m going to print this review right now so I know exactly what to do when I arrive in London, right down to where to find stage door and what to say to London Heathrow Passport Control! Looking forward to seeing if Philip Bulcock made it into the “Dark Knight” this summer.

    Thanks, Charly, for the amazingly detailed review and photos!!

    Comment by Vanessa — May 4, 2008 @ 10:34 am

  14. Great job, Charly! I’ve heard you’re like that bunny on TV…you just keep going, and going, and going…to JB in London. What a wonderful experience for you and for your readers by default!

    Comment by Mama Lucy — May 4, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  15. your write up and photos were great its so good to hear the fans reactions I will be seeing the show for the second time in August and taking excited family members with me. All the lads are brilliant as well as the rest of the cast. Keep up the good work your doing a fantastic job. Best wishes Ryans mam

    Comment by trotter — May 5, 2008 @ 2:55 am

  16. Charly – wow, what a wonderful write-up. You know how us fans love hearing about JB so it is very much appreciated that you take the time to give us the details. Looks like you had a fabulous time! OK, where are you going to see JB next?

    Pam F

    Comment by Pam F — May 5, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

  17. Well done, well done! Absoluty brilliant! Thank you for sharing your UK Jersey Boys lark. I hope to see the production when I go across the pond next year.


    Comment by Tina — May 6, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

  18. Hi Charly,

    Thank you so much for this fantastic write up about “our boys”. We certainly think they are fantastic and are booked up to see them another 3 times and counting. It was the music of Franke Valli that got us in to the theatre in the first place but the excellence of the production and those gorgeous boys that get us going back again and again – amateur compared to your 30 times but we’re getting there!

    Thanks again, Lesley and Sarah (Stage Door Buddies)

    Comment by Lesley — May 7, 2008 @ 1:47 am

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