Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Seasonal Performance

A trip to the theatre, slumming. Just a damn good emotional, generational wallow. Nothing intellectual (that's Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, on the list, still to come. With the delicious Samantha Bond).

Yes, you've got it in one: Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre.

Now Malcolm should have knocked this one off on one of his trips to the former colonies. It somehow didn't happen. He puts that down to local prejudice from his New Yorker son-in-law.

So, to the London production.

Magnificent ironwork set. Lots of dropping and sliding panels. Electronics galore. Very tasty; very, very tasty. The back-projected sky-line, featuring the iconic Pulaski Skyway, twitches Malcolm's clothing to remind it of its down-market source in the Jersey Gardens Mall, Elizabeth, NJ. That's another way of saying that Jersey has problems:
Some people are not thrilled to live in a place where you gotta drive over a turnpike, past a landfill, through a dump, just to root for a team that's from New York anyway.
Jersey boys have a problem, the guy from Hoboken:
"I'm gonna be bigger than Sinatra."
"Only if you're standing on a chair."
Simple storyline (though with a lot to be read into it -- see below): guys meet up , work their way through the lowest tiers of show-biz, and finally find their "sound" and make it big. Yeah: that sounds just like, inter alia, the Glenn Miller Story. This one, though, is louder. Wait for the end of either act: much louder. And, at the end of act one, they shine lights at you. In the process they become the Four Seasons:
"So, you like our new name?"
"Oh, I love it. So did Vivaldi."
"Some guy stole our name? I'll go talk to him."
"That's okay, ... he's already dead."
Of course, since it's a musical, all the hits are there. They come so fast that, at the end of act one, Malcolm was trying to recall what was left. Answer: a lot.

Beyond that it's:
  • boy already has girl, boy meets another girl, she leaves him;
  • boy has gambling problems, his mates give him a dig-out;
  • boy and boy discover they really don't like the touring life, and drop out;
  • producers don't understand how talented our boys are, but give way in the end;
  • the moment of total pathos (Valli's grown-up daughter is a heroin death):
You pay your taxes. You put your trust in the system, you think your kids are safe. What're you supposed to do, put 'em on a leash? Chain 'em to the bed? They grow up, they grow out, and then some motherfucker with a needle is waiting and it's over.
  • rapid synopsis to satisfactory end.
But you knew all that.

And the songs are still great.

On the way, there's even a bit of real wit:
"So who's the girl in the song? Your girlfriend?""
"No, it's any girl - every girl. It's what T.S. Eliot calls the 'objective correlative'."
"You're not from around here, are you?"
So, no catharsis: the nearest it gets is:
They ask you - what was the high point? The hall of fame, selling all those records, pulling Sherry out of a hat - it was all great. But four guys under a streetlamp, when it was all still ahead of us ... the first time we made that sound, our sound ... when everything dropped away, and all there was was the music ... that was the best. That's why I'm still out there singing. Like that bunny on TV with the battery , I just keep going and going and going. Chasing the music, trying to get home.
Yeah, just a gentle, nostalgic burn, all the way back to Kennedy's Presidency.

But it still had the audience (grey and even arthritic) standing and wanting more.

Strongly recommended.

The punchline:

There is the occasional philosophising.

What caught Malcolm's attention was a speech given to "Frankie Valli", as a reaction to the British invasion (the Beatles, the Stones) in the early 1960s. This made a distinction between "their" audience and "ours", "the guys out in Nam", the girl with aching feet behind the shop counter, the lad at the petrol station.

The "Boss", another Jersey Boy, continues to speak to that other audience. Sphere: Related Content

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