Rachel Bailey speaks to Jersey Boys star Jon Boydon about winning this year’s Group Leisure award for Best Theatre Production and what it means to the cast.
Can you describe Jersey Boys in one sentence for anyone who hasn’t seen it?
This is not a juke box musical, it’s the true story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, with songs that you’ll love and a story you won’t believe.
You’ve just won Best Theatre Production as voted for by Group Leisure readers, which is one of many accolades that the musical has picked up. Does the novelty of winning awards ever wear off?
No, not at all! I think when you open a show, the awards you might receive are ones like Best New Musical, Best New Production, or Best New Cast. Those awards become unavailable once you’ve done a year or two, because it’s not a new show anymore.
But then to start getting the Best Show in the West End, or Best Theatre Production – they’re the ones that mean the most, especially when these awards are voted for by our audiences. It makes you realise that not only do you have a great show, you’re also maintaining it. I’ve met people who have been to see Jersey Boys multiple times, and to get repeat business and ongoing respect from the audience is worth so much.
For us to win Best Theatre Production is great, as we’re not a big musical. We have a small cast and not a particularly lavish set. What we do have is a great story and amazing music, and I hope we continue to win awards because it affirms what I so strongly believe: that Jersey Boys really is the best musical around.
Pictured: L to R - Gary Watson, Jon Boydon, Michael Watson and Edd Post in Jersey Boys (Photo credit: Brinkhoff & Mögenburg).
Do you think the show is suitable for all ages?
We see audience members aged from five up to 90, and there seems to be something in this show that appeals to everyone. For younger people, the story is gripping and the songs are fun. Then you’ve got people in their 30s and 40s who are thinking, ‘Yes, I know this one!’ And finally you have people in their 60s and 70s who come because they’re reliving their youth and they know the music.
Why do you think Jersey Boys has proven particularly popular with groups?
That possibly comes down to demographic – coach groups are of a certain age and a particular income bracket – and we’re obviously singing songs from their generation. This is their era, this is their music. Jersey Boys isn’t a party show, because it has a story to tell, but it is a feel good musical and that is something you can really enjoy with a group of people. It’s an experience to share with others.
You’ve been in Jersey Boys six years now and recently played your 2,000th performance as Tommy. Have you ever considered leaving?
I can’t imagine what someone would have to put in front of me to make me think about doing something else; Tommy DeVito would be such a hard character to follow. It would have to be something big! The only role that might be on my hit list is that of Hedwig, from current Broadway show Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s a one-man rock and roll drag show, and the songs are phenomenal. If that came to the West End, I would love to do that!
How do you stay excited about both the show and your character?
The dialogue in Jersey Boys is incredibly rich, especially for a musical. Most musicals have a story, some are shallower than others, and during others you just want to get to the next song. Jersey Boys dialogue, however, is very much like being in a movie. To say to the audience, come with me, this is the world into which we are going, is still always a challenge, but I never tire of making sure everyone buys into it. Even after 2,000 times, most audiences are a new one. You can’t take it for granted that everyone knows what’s going on.
I give exactly the same performance each night, and keeping it fresh and exciting and renewing the pace and energy have all actually become part of what my performance is. I couldn’t do it any other way.
Pictured: L to R - Gary Watson, Michael Watson (seated), Jon Boydon (standing) and Edd Post in Jersey Boys. (Photo credit: Brinkhoff & Mögenburg).
You take part in eight performances a week. How do you detach from work?
I ride a motorbike in and out of London most days when I work, and that’s quite cathartic in itself – aside from the deathly London traffic! Getting out of the show, putting my helmet on, and leaving London provides me with 45 minutes of head space where I’m offline before I get home. I’m also writing my own album at the moment; it’s nice to be creative outside of work, and to do non-Jersey Boys stuff.
And finally, has anything ever gone wrong on the Jersey Boys stage?
We don’t tend to have too many catastrophes, because of the simplicity of the set. However, at our last show at The Prince Edward Theatre before the musical moved, we had a bit of a sound disaster. We were using a beautiful big analogue sound desk that was being retired. It was one of the last of its kind being used in the country.
During that last performance, the analogue sound desk went down in the middle of Oh, What a Night. The most horrific noise came out the speakers – like distorted whale song – and then it just crashed and died. Luckily it was due to a part that was replaceable, but we were all ushered off stage while the speakers were being fixed.
There was a bit of an atmosphere during that performance anyway, because it was the last night in that theatre and a few people would be leaving the cast – but of course, the audience loved it. We got a massive round of applause at the end of that one!
Jersey Boys is currently booking at the Piccadilly Theatre until October 2016. Groups of ten or more are entitled to reduced seating costs.
For further information visit www.jerseyboyslondon.com.
(Photo credit: Brinkhoff & Mögenburg)