Jersey Boys (15)
PACKING five decades of success, failure, heartache, marital discord, drugs, drink, death, moneylenders and the Mob into a two-hour film was always going to be tough.
Thus Jersey Boys, based on the long-running Broadway hit, rattles through the life story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. And along the journey our hero is transformed from potential juvenile delinquent to backing singer to star.
Helmed by Clint Eastwood, the film is less a musical than a group biopic built equally on clichés, bad language, blue-collar bonding and the shadow of the Mafia.
John Lloyd Young plays Valli, the clean-living ItalianAmerican kid with the unique sound who is recruited into a 50s band by junior tough guy Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza). And it’s Tommy who proves to be the group’s Achilles heel as he racks up debt and dabbles with loan sharks. Eastwood prefers not to dwell so much on those details as on the tensions and dynamics within the quartet. In fact, he positively speeds through the foursome’s key moments – zipping through their greatest hits, their antics on tour, their early brushes with the law and some personal tragedies.
But in doing so Eastwood focuses on some all-time classic songs and places Young centre stage. He is right to do so, for Young – who played Valli on Broadway and in the West End – is the heart of the movie.
It doesn’t quite stack up as a great music biography but at least Eastwood had the foresight to cast a singer who can act and not an actor who can’t sing. Full marks for that. THE Fault In Our Stars will offer a stern test to the waterproof mascara of every teenager who fell in love with John Green’s bestselling novel.
Josh Boone’s polished adaptation navigates the tricky topic of terminal illness with wry humour and sensitivity. The film is blessed with a tour-de-force central performance from Shailene Woodley as a young cancer patient, who experiences the exquisite agony of first love just when it seems she has given up on life.
The 22-year-old doesn’t hit a single false emotional note as her protagonist wrestles with guilt and mortality, catalysing smoldering screen chemistry with co-star Ansel Elgort.
Woodley plays 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster, who was diagnosed with cancer at an early age. An experimental drug trial has halted the spread of the disease but Hazel is resigned to her grim fate. “Depression’s not a side effect of cancer,” she explains in voiceover, “it’s a side effect of dying, which is what’s happening to me.”
The teenager reluctantly attends a cancer patients’ support group at the behest of her mom (Laura Dern). During one session, Grace meets acerbic survivor Gus (Elgort), who lost his leg to halt the spread of his cancer. Grace and Gus’s shared disdain for convention kindles friendship which intensifies into love. The Fault In Our Stars is a beautifully sketched portrait of adolescence, anchored by emotionally raw performances from the talented cast. NORTHERN Aldborough Festival would not have hoped for a more successful opening night.
To offer a rare opportunity to hear the complete version of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale was an exciting and brave choice, and persuading the distinguished actor, Edward Fox, to take the part of the narrator, adding gilt to the gingerbread. Scored for a small ensemble of strings and wind instruments, with a solo role for violin and trumpet, it is musically a difficult score to perform, but the playing from the Chamber Domaine, conducted by its founder, Thomas Kemp, was all one could wish.
Shoehorned onto the specially erected stage in the beautiful old church, the action took place between Matthew Sharp’s sprightly young Soldier, and his meeting with the Devil, a role well known to the actor, Walter van Dyke. The brief appearance of the dancer, Isadiora Valero Meza, added the part of the Princess.
By complete contrast, the first half of the programme – the Stravinsky is an extended score – was devoted to Elgar’s nostalgic Piano Quintet, a loving account that reached its full-blooded romanticism in its final pages. Blues and Soul, A Night at the Musicals, classical music and outstanding performances by children and young people. The festival runs from June 29 to July 2 at The Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds. For more information visit www. leedsjewishfestival.com or call 0113 2680899. SCARBOROUGH’S annual Seafest, which takes place from July 25-27, will have a special visiting pop-up event this year. An offshoot of Leeds’s Caribbean Carnival, the pop-up carnival will feature music and dance and spectacular sequined, feathered and beaded costumes. It will take place from noon until 2.30pm on Saturday July 26 at the Spa end of the beach in the South Bay. Other highlights of the festival include music from the Paradise Stelle Band and the Men of Staithes Choir and food demonstrations from a line-up of top chefs. A PART of the laudable Alan Bennett season at West Yorkshire Playhouse, this is a show worth seeing in the context of Bennett’s oeuvre, even though it is not from the pen of the master himself.
Unfortunately, that it was merely inspired by, as opposed to written by, Bennett shows in a musical that feels like lots of decent ideas in search of a plot.
A corrupt group of officials are operating as a mafia of local politics in postwar Britain, while humble chiropodist Gilbert attempts to satisfy his meagre ambition to open his own surgery.
An unlikely hero, the musical veers down a ridiculous alleyway when the womenfolk of the village sing lyrically about his magic hands rubbing away at their corned feet. It is as unappetising to watch as it is to read about.
The meat of the story is about a pig that will be turned into sausages, until Gilbert kidnaps/rescues the porky dinner before it arrives on the plates of the avaricious local councillors. Even writing the synopsis you wonder how this ever made it to the stage.
The answer is because of the man who inspired it – Bennett is stamped through this production.
It is inspired by Bennett’s Private Function. However, what worked on the big screen does not translate to the stage and despite some fine performances and – in the second act – some toe-tapping musical numbers, the fact that it all seems both ludicrous and impossible to care about means the good things about this musical are swallowed up by its shortcomings.
To July 5. THE National Coal Mining Museum is holding its annual Miners Gala on Sunday from 10am-4.45pm. It will be a day full of family activities, music, bike races, displays and a craft show competition. Admission to the Gala is free and visitors can also explore the museum’s current exhibition Courage, Camaraderie and Community.
ANEXT weekend sees Shelley’s biennial art exhibition take place in the West Yorkshire village’s Emmanuel Church. Alongside the amateur artists, two professionals will be taking part in the show this year – Royal Academician Paul Curtis and local Brian Halton. The exhibition takes place on Saturday June 28 from 11am to 5pm. Admission is free and there will also be a Frenchstyle craft and produce market.