New Jersey Nights, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Spirit Productions Worldwide
Emma Rogers (director/Choreographer), Matt Randall (Musical director)
Duncan Heather, Jon Hawkins, Ricky Rojas, Damion Scarcella
Running time

With Cats lurking around the side streets of Leith Walk ready to move in to the theatre and the Lion King expected in October, this year looks like being a great one for theatre-goers in Edinburgh. Coming up are also shows like ‘Ghost’, ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert with Jason Donovan, ‘Hairspray’ and the return of favourites like the ‘Rocky Horror Show’ and the always enjoyable ‘Blood Brothers’.

New Jersey Nights is basically a touring ‘filler’ between the wonderfully staged ‘Dirty Dancing’ and the arrival of the feline cast in early February. This show like the award winning ‘Jersey Boys’ is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons although the shows differ in many respects.

While ‘Jersey boys’ is told in four parts mirroring the seasons in terms of the beginning as ‘Spring’ working through to the end as ‘Winter’ there is no real structure to New Jersey Nights.

The four singers do not take on parts as such but share the lead on the bountiful back catalogue of the group. The links are done by the main singers in their own accents which seemed odd when the music is seeking to replicate the ‘real’ thing.

What the singers do is of a high standard and while there were initially some sound issues on the opening night these quickly disappeared and the audience were treated to songs such as ‘Oh what a Nigh’, ‘Sherry’ and ‘My Eyes Adored You’.

The boys took a break when the dancers presented some Phil Spector hits but not sure if that worked in the context of the show. Many of the audience were obviously drawn to the show because of their appreciation of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons so it was ironic that some of the tracks have been covered by other artistes with distinctive voices. As the singers are not the ‘real’ thing their renderings of ‘Bye bye Baby’, ‘Silence is Golden’ and ‘Can’t take My Eyes off of You’ did not compare that well with the Bay City Rollers, Tremoloes or the late great Andy Williams.

Another example was ‘Grease’ which was performed really well by the whole cast but just sought to remind you of a show which was full of characters while this was a tribute concert.

As a tribute concert, it was fine with Damion Scarcella, the pick of the four. Each time he led on a number you felt that you were getting closer to the original sound. Generally, the harmonies were spot on. The bit of nonsense around ‘Blue Moon’ obviously pleased the audience and helped build the atmosphere towards the climax of the show. Dean Mongerio on the tenor saxophone and Eddy White on guitar brought out the best out of the songs that they accompanied.

As an evening of good music performed slickly with typical American panache, supported by energetic dancers and an on-stage band it was fine and was well received by the audience who happily got to their feet and joined in the finale.

Runs to Saturday 26th January, 7.30pm (Saturday matinee 2.30pm)