January 10, 2009

My Excursion to Jersey Boys London by Howard Tucker

January 10th, 2009

The Genesis: Everything Happens for a Reason, or Does It?

I was in Ireland on business a few weeks back, but the flights from the New York airports directly to Cork, Ireland were too expensive for my company’s computer, which tracks for the least expensive rates, so my connections to and from were through London. I hate connections (and so does my luggage), so initially was quite upset. But please read on for the silver lining.

I actually completed my business in Ireland a day early and asked if I could take the same flights, but just take the flight home from London a day later, as I wanted to see Jersey Boys London. Permission granted!

My flight to London was uneventful, and our travel agent had booked the Holiday Inn on Bath Road in London for the night. (I didn’t print the itinerary since who could forget Bath Road….I just had to think of ‘bathrobe’). As I arrived at the airport, I was guided to a bus, and gave the Bath Road address….no problem. When I was dropped at the Holiday Inn, yes, it was the wrong Holiday Inn, as there were three on Bath Road. Hotel personnel called a taxi to take me to the correct hotel. When I asked the driver about public transportation to the Prince Edward, he assured me he’d give me a wonderfully relaxing ride in his taxi for the discounted price of £40 (about $60). OK, I said, and he came by with two hours to spare! Plenty of time, or was it? “Do you know how to get to the Prince Edward Theatre, Driver?” “We’ll find it, Passenger,” he assured me with confidence.

Well, he had a GPS but had to be the one in a million that he had never heard of the Prince Edward Theatre or “Jersey Boys”! (Surprised he even heard of Prince Edward!) And with London traffic, we proceeded at about a ¼ inch per hour pace! Well, luckily, Lynn Morris, Stephen Ashfield’s lovely Blogmistress, had told me the stage door was on Firth Street, so he put Firth in his GPS and we made it with about twenty minutes to spare!

The Theatre and the Ushers

All of us who’ve been to the August Wilson on Broadway know that it was built when all people were short and skinny! That wasn’t the case here; I had a great seat in stall H (8th row) with plenty of width and leg room. I sat next to a mother and daughter who were seeing JB for the third time, and we had a wonderful conversation. They were huge Glenn Carter (Tommy DeVito) fans, so I already had developed a preconceived notion that Glenn was going to be phenomenal.

I am so used to the “tough love” ushers of the orchestra at the August Wilson that I almost fainted when I was treated with such courtesy and respect by two very pleasant ushers. Further, the concession people were also great. (The August Wilson group normally is too, but my most lasting memory is when I purchased an XL shirt for “Yesterday’s Treasures” Jim Petrecca, and the seller looked me over, declaring, “You know, sir, they do run small!”, and I had to explain the purchase was not for me!) But no questions and about £20 pounds poorer, I took my seat.

And small containers of Haagen Daz ice cream were offered at £3 per. You’re supposed to eat that stuff? You can’t even see it!

The Performance and the Audience

From the “Ces Soiree-La,” the show was great and the audience was too, although perhaps a bit more staid than the August Wilson norm. (Sometimes I think the August Wilson “goes wild” just to annoy the grumpy ushers!) Initially, the “ubiquitous” line was not met with even a polite laugh and a few of the “Jersey” jokes fell flat. (But I did have the opportunity to explain them to my seatmates at intermission.) Indeed, some references needed explanations: “Prizefighter Rocky Marciano” and “Joe Pesci, the actor from ‘Goodfellas.” Finally, Englebert Humperdinck was substituted for Neil Sedaka, with a nice audience response.

But the pace picked up quickly, and true to my seatmates’ predictions, Glenn Carter played a great Tommy effectively, with a few new muggings and gestures that I’d never seen. Perhaps it was a tad darker than the norm, but still effective. Indeed, Tommy climbing the stairs after the Gyp basement scene was heartbreaking.

Stephen Ashfield and his great smile were a delight, and he played Bob beautifully as the brilliant but initially naïve songwriter. The audience loved his “personal first” scene to “Oh, What a Night,” and laughed and clapped when he announced, “Nicky was right! It is more fun with another person!” His New Jersey accent was right on, but when he met me at the stage door, he went right back to his Scottish, almost Cockney accent of “Aye Owad, ‘ow ‘ah ya Owad” (translated “Hi Howard, how are you, Howard?”)

Our own Charly O’Clarit informed me that if one stands after the “Big Three,” Stephen pings that person from the stage. Well, I did so, Charly, and the only ping I received was from the person in back of me: “Please sit down, sir! I can’t see!”

Ryan Molloy played a fine Frankie with a very poignant “Fallen Angel,” with real tears flowing. It was so poignant in fact; I teased Ryan afterward about falling back to his old British accent with the word “fallen.”

Philip Bulcock did a nice albeit subdued turn as Nick Massi, but the Ringo line got a lot of laughs, even more so than in the states. I also loved Suzy Bastone’s touching but tough portrayal of Mary Delgado and the absolutely hilarious Simon Adkins as Bob Crewe. (The met-a-phor line certainly woke up the audience.)

The Stage Door

Our wonderful and beautiful Charly O’Clarit prepared all the actors for my arrival, with Stephen’s lovely Blogmistress Lynn reminding Stephen. He was the very first to emerge and recognized me immediately…OK, it wasn’t that difficult since there were only four of us at the stage door, and I was the only male! He dutifully posed for a great picture with his great smile. I loved his Scottish accent and tried to get him pronouncing words with “h’s” so I could hear the Cockney inflection.

The three ladies with me at the stage door were delightful and after a few minutes, we became more engrossed in our own conversations than in waiting for the stars. There was a young woman named Karen who had just moved from Canada to London…she had traveled to NYC to see JB at the August Wilson many times and is a HUGE Daniel Reichard fan. (You have some competition here, Lucy Rochetti!) The four of us were a complete antithesis to the madhouse in NYC. Actually, though, Philip Bulcock spotted us chatting among ourselves and took the opportunity to make a clean getaway. Karen shouted to him and he heard her, and gave a slight wave without turning around, and vanished more quickly than Mary Delgado after “My Eyes Adored You.”

Glenn Carter, Suzy Bastone, Ryan Molloy, and Simon Adkins were such delights and chatted with all of us for quite a while. Charly O’Clarit, of course, was a huge topic of conversation and absolutely everyone knew Charly…cast, ushers, security guards, concession people, with one notable exception…see below. Glenn was patient enough to allow me to voicecoach him a bit on the correct pronunciation of Castelluccio (after all, I grew up 5 mi. from Belleville) and Ryan patient enough to work with me on the pronunciation of “fallen,” while Suzy and Simon laughed at the remedial speech sessions.

Now, the ONLY person who didn’t know Charly was the fellow who played Norm Waxman, Joe Prouse, and a rumor started circulating that Charly was avoiding him to prevent a sit-down re her borrowing because of increased prices at the August Wilson!! (LOL)

Actually, it was such a wonderful evening all around. And to top it off, there was a taxi stand right near the theatre, where there were many free drivers. I was able to bargain my way back to the Holiday Inn on Bath Road for the same £40 I’d paid to get there. (Original price was £57.) Thanks all, but especially to Charly, Lynn, the wonderful cast, and my stage-door mates! And Philip Bulcock, I have you on radar already for my next visit!!!


  1. Howard I am so jealous. What a wonderful experience. I would give anything to be able to get back to London, to the show and stage door again. Thanks for the detailed story.

    Comment by phillygalg — January 11, 2009 @ 7:01 am

  2. Sounds like a wonderful experience, Howard. And told in an entertaining fashion, as usual!

    Comment by Catherine — January 11, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  3. Great write up and pictures as always, Howard. This brings back such wonderful memories, and makes me want to return to London soon to see the show again. It is truly a memorable experience. The Boys are a delight, both on stage and off, and yes, the ushers are a bit less staid than those at the August Wilson!!

    xo, Pam

    Comment by Pamela — January 11, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

  4. Howard,
    Your review made me laugh out loud several times. My husband even asked me what so funny. As always, your review was superb and I wish I could spend my life traveling from city to city and country to country to see Jersey Boys like you, Gary, and Charly have managed to do.

    Comment by Beverley Micciche — January 11, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

  5. Hi Howard,

    I saw you right after you got back to NY and have been patiently waiting for this review and it was worth the wait. So happy your travel/work plans worked out so you could go see the show. The stars were in alignment, yes? I’m so happy you had this wonderful experience.

    Comment by Linda/Tiggerbelle — January 11, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

  6. Hi Howard,

    I so enjoyed your article! Both you and Charly always describe your experiences with such visual, that I almost feel as if I were there. That means a lot to me…especially since I probably won’t get the chance to see the London cast myself. Thanks so much for taking the time to do such great things for the blog!

    Comment by Carolyn — January 11, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  7. Nice story, Howard. Very fuuny!
    Splish splash
    He was taken to Bath
    Lookin’ for the Holiday Inn

    Shout out
    He was on the roundabout
    Wondrin’ what he’d got himself in

    Couldn’t find the greatest show on earth
    “Good Golly, Vivaldi
    Hang the second right on Firth!”

    But then-a, after all
    He made it to his stall
    And settled in the bonnie Prince Ed…
    Great pix too!

    Comment by stubbleyou — January 11, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

  8. As I started to read your poem, Stubs, I knew it was you. Howard, great review, as always. I am now thinking that Stubs and Howard should team up. Vegas JB, move over – here comes the DI (as in two) NAMIC DUO of
    S and H (weren’t they green stamps??????) Nothing green about this pair – they are SEASONed! IE

    Comment by irene eizen — January 11, 2009 @ 11:13 pm


    Comment by JIM PETRECCA — January 12, 2009 @ 12:00 am

  10. Luvs It Howard!! You are so right about the Haagen-Dazs…you get about a teaspoon full for the bargain price of $4.50. Next time try this company Addison Lee for transport. It’s a car service that charges half of what those black cabs charge and without a doubt they will know where the Prince Edward is. Glad you had a fab time.

    Irene, I would be the first paying customer to see “DI”

    Comment by Charly O'Clarit — January 12, 2009 @ 3:23 am

  11. Howard, after reading about your cab ride, I’m guessing you’re ‘not so hot for the road anymore.’

    And Stubbs… who says musicals are unrealistic, with people suddenly breaking into song? You do it with perfect timing; you’re a juke box musical waiting to happen.

    Thanks for lots of laughs, ‘Owad’ and plenty of seasoned perspectives. You’ve piqued my interest in Glenn’s portrayal of Tommy.

    Forget the road, get me a plane!

    Comment by Audrey — January 12, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  12. That sounds like a wonderful trip, Howard! Love the pictures too!

    Comment by Krystal — January 12, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  13. Great review Howard! Really enjoyed your writing. Always so engaging. Thank you!

    Comment by Angel — January 13, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

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