I'm trying to recall the last London musical I saw and I think it might be that occasion we took out a mortgage and trekked off to London with three pre-teenage children to see Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat and I feel sure it was at the Palladium, but I can't remember whether it was Philip Schofield's run or Jason Donovan's or someone else entirely.
This is all to demonstrate that I don't go to musicals very often so and so could have plumped for anything and been happy. The other five members of Girl's Night In on the other hand are a well-musicaled bunch and so we were hard pushed to find something that one or other of them hadn't seen as we went right through the list. Billy Elliot, Oliver, Sound of Music, Chicago, you name it they'd seen it twice already so in the end Jersey Boys it was.
At this point I think I have to adopt the Westend Whingers critical template and assess everything from the doorman to the usher to the ice cream seller, except I was too excited to notice as we set foot in the the Prince Edward theatre in Old Compton Street.
Don't you just love these old London theatres and hope they keep on going forever?
Everyone surging into the foyer off the street, the lighting and the carpets all giving that warm, cosy feeling that makes you wish you'd brought your slippers and all adding to that sense of anticipation?
The Prince Edward opened in 1930 so it oozes Art Deco style with a stage that copes with expansive sets which have in the past accommodated a swimming pool or allowed a car to be driven onto the stage. The lights went out for the first few years of the war but were then discreetly switched back on in 1942 for some recordings for broadcasting to the troops.
Enter stage right the greats, Vera Lynn, Glenn Miller and Bing Crosby.
A Cameron Mackintosh £3 million refurbishment in the 1990s upgraded everything except the number of ladies toilets it would seem, and Girls Night In nearly missed their interval ice creams (Haagen Dazs chocolate chip 10/10...the Whingers will be cringing at this, we didn't touch the bar, elbows not sufficiently pointed) In the end one of us claims, in a loud and desperate whisper, 'three babies in four years' (usually me) and bolts into the empty disabled facility, which might all be too much information so please feel free to ignore that....that said the Whingers don't usually describe the facilities so someone has to do it.
For anyone who doesn't know, and I didn't until recently, Jersey Boys is the story of the rise to fame and fortune of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and we all pondered quite how we seemed word perfect on the songs but lacking in any knowledge of much else.
Once those bass notes start and the music pours out we were all away with the fairies and loving it and I'll bet plenty of you know the songs too, Sherry, Can't Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, Bye Bye Baby (own up every single one of you Bay City Rollers fans) Rag Doll, Who Loves You, December 1963 (Oh What a Night), Walk Like a Man, Big Girls Don't Cry.
Fantastic singing from Ryan Molloy as Frankie Valli, love or hate the falsetto he has it to perfection, great stage production and I think we would have been 100% content were it not for the people in the back row across the aisle, behind and to our right.
Now I think back to going to see Godspell in the 1970s.
I'm sure it was the Roundhouse and I know it was David Essex because he autographed my arm in the interval when the audience were invited up onto the stage and the plan was never to wash it again. Sadly Sister had other ideas on duty the next day, but the show was wild, we danced in the aisles and sang along but that was completely de rigueur for Godspell.
I'm not quite sure what's de rigueur theatre singalong etiquette these days?
It didn't seem to say Sing-a-long-a Jersey Boys outside and really we'd paid £52.50 each to hear Ryan Molloy and the others sing, not the back row who had to have been in drink or they might just have stood a chance of being slightly in tune, and nor did we benefit from their running commentary which was hardly sotto voce. Of course everyone joins in for some bits but not the whole lot and it seemed as if it was perhaps their 50th visit
'Oh this bit's really sad'
'Any minute now he's going to sing Cry For Me'
'I love this next one'
'Oh I enjoyed that better last time'
You do that British thing of looking round and glaring all to no avail, someone says something also to no avail and management were called in the interval (not by us, too busy queuing for the Ladies and fretting that we'd miss our ice creams.) A large and menacing looking bouncer was positioned alongside to keep order but could do little but say ssshhhhhh every so often and ended up making more noise. Personally I'd have had them placed in the dungeons (or the ladies toilets) prior to transportation on a convict ship where they could have sung to their heart's content in time to the oars...few rounds of Who Loves You and they'd have been down under in no time.
When the entire house finally stood up to do that arm waving and singing and looking an idiot thing for the finale and the encores, the annoying back row then complained loudly to the bouncer that it wasn't fair because they couldn't see...Big Girls Don't Cry we sang full volume...Walk Like a Man we shrilled along with Frankie. Forget revenge as a song best served cold, we swayed and waved and sang our hearts out along with the rest of the house.
Oh What a Night we trilled as we walked to the tube, fantastic.