Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 37 - An Evening with the Jersey Boys

Tonight will be a quickie (no, not that kind of quickie) because I wasn't feeling too well today.  Probably just tired.  Anyway, hubby surged on without me to get theatre tickets for tonight and went through Cecil Court on his way.

Cecil Court

Cecil Court is a pedestrian street with Victorian shop-frontages that links Charing Cross Road and St. Martin's Lane. Since the 1930s it has been known as the new Booksellers' Row and it is sometimes used as a location by film companies. In 2011, the President of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, Laurence Worms, described the street as an "Island of Civilization" in contemporary London.

Cecil Court dates back to the end of the 17th century. Originally a tradesman's route, it later acquired the nickname Flicker Alley from the concentration of early film companies in the Court. It is now known to bibliophiles as home to nearly twenty antiquarian and second-hand independent bookshops, including specialists in modern first editions, collectible children’s books, early printing, rare maps and atlases, antique prints, theatrical ephemera, and esoterica, as well as a contemporary art gallery, an antiques shop, shops specializing in philately, numismatics and art deco jewellery and two restaurants.

Cecil Court's Connection to Mozart
A substantial part of Cecil Court was razed to the ground in 1735, almost certainly arson on the part of a tenant, Mrs Colloway, who was running a brandy shop/brothel in the street at the time: she purchased kindling, emptied her brandy barrels, over-insured her stock and made certain that she was drinking nearby with friends at the time the fire took hold. However, she was acquitted.

Once it recovered from the ravages of fire, the small street become the temporary home of an eight-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart while he was touring Europe in 1764. For almost four months the Mozart family lodged with barber John Couzin. Tickets for Mozart's first London concerts were sold from Couzin's shop and, while living there, the young Mozart performed twice for King George III and was tested for his musical ability by Dr Charles Burney. According to some modern authorities, Mozart composed his first symphony while a resident of Cecil Court.

Cecil Court and the film industry
Cecil Court was also an important focus of the early British cinema industry, with over forty entries to be found in the database of the study of the film business in London, 1894-1914, organised by the AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies, searchable online as part of the London Project. The first film-related company arrived in Cecil Court in 1897, a year after the first demonstration of moving pictures in the United Kingdom and a decade before London’s first purpose built cinema opened its doors. ‘Flicker Alley’ was renowned as the place to buy or hire a film in Edwardian London, associated with many of the most important film-makers and distributors in early cinema.

One of the darker moments in the history of Cecil Court concerns Edwin Bush's theft of an antique dagger from Louis Meier's shop and his murder of Mrs. Elsie May Batten.

Identikit sketch vs. photo of Edwin Bush
The case of 21-year-old Edwin Bush is not only notable as the first case in the UK involving the use of the Identikit System, it also illustrates an aspect of the Homicide Act 1957. If no item had been stolen from the premises, then Bush could not have been sentenced to death under the Act.

Since Bush did steal a dagger from the shop, he was sentenced to death on 12 May 1961 at the Old Bailey, and executed at Pentonville Prison in London on 6 July 1961, for murdering 59-year-old Mrs. Elsie May Batten on 3 March 1961. Mrs Batten had been found stabbed to death with an antique dagger in Mr. Meier's shop where she worked as an assistant.

Bush was the second to last criminal executed in London and the twelfth to last in the United Kingdom.

That's a lot of history for a small street, but hubby went through it to get us tickets to see Jersey Boys.

Story of the Four Seasons and Frankie Valli
So, when he got back, we walked toward the theatre and stopped at La Porchetta Pollo Bar and Pizzeria for dinner.  Eating al fresco....

Their prices are quite reasonable and the food was very good.

Spaghetti Bolognese

I ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese with Insalata "Pomodoro e Cipolla" (tomato and onion salad) and the required glass of red wine.  Hubby had the Penne Vodka which included prawns (shrimp) and a touch of cream.

Penne Vodka
After dinner we walked around a bit, in search of some mints when we came across a tattoo parlor with a skeleton in its window.  A tattooed skeleton.
Tattooed Skeleton
When we found a newsagent that carried mints, hubby discovered he'd left the tickets back at the flat.  We were in Soho, and the tickets were in Covent Garden and it was 7:10 PM with the curtain at 7:30 PM.  We didn't think we'd make it back before the show started, but we gave it the old "college try."  I must admit I've never seen hubby walk that fast before.  We made it to the flat and back to the theatre in ten minutes.  Out of breath, but on time. We're both tramps who love the theatre, but never arrive late.  Or do our best not to.

Prince Edward Theatre under construction
The following is from Jersey Boys London:
"Jersey Boys is the phenomenally successful jukebox musical that recounts the story of the rise to fame and fortune of the Four Seasons, one of the most memorable and well-known pop bands of the 1960s. Set in the years leading up to and going beyond their first break into showbiz, Jersey Boys uses a mixture of the band’s back catalogue and a documentary-style flashback narrative to chart the trials and tribulations that led to hit such as Can’t Take My Eye Off You, December 1963 (Oh What A Night) and Bye Bye Baby.
Despite the smooth and catchy singles that characterised the Four Seasons’ music, their path to stardom was beset with obstacles including stints in jail, jealousy and rivalry between the main acts, interference from the mob and a series of tumultuous relationships. The musical brings the turbulence of the band’s formation to life with electrifying renditions of their songs by talented West End performers, and with each member of the band narrating one chapter of the Four Seasons’ journey from Spring through to Winter.
Music and lyrics are by original Four Seasons’ member and producer, Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, and the book for the musical was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice."

Both of us enjoyed the musical immensely.  The actor playing Frankie Valli did a superb job and all of them captured the "Jersey Accent" perfectly.  I wasn't aware that Joe Pesci played such an instrumental role in the Four Seasons career, though he was very young.  According to the musical, which is based on the stories provided by the surviving members of the Four Seasons, Joe Pesci introduced Bob Gaudio to Tommy DeVito.  The story in the musical is told by each of the four group member taking a turn at informing the audience of the "true story" of their beginnings including the heartbreaks and the successes as they go through the years singing the songs as they relate to the story.

In the finale, Bob Crewe (their producer) describes The Four Seasons' 1990 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which reunited the original four members on stage one last time ("Rag Doll"). Each member takes a moment to address the audience in turn, explaining his pride at having been with the band and briefly notes what he did afterwards.

Little was known to the public about the group's history prior to the premiere of the musical, because the magazines of the era didn't write about them much. In their research, Brickman and Elice were surprised to find that the members had prison records, which might have prevented their music from being played if it had been publicized when they were active. According to Gaudio, "Back then, things were a little clean-cut, don't forget, so the idea of our story getting out was horrifying to us." Other bands of the time projected street-tough images, but The Four Seasons cleaned themselves up in order to be palatable for mainstream listeners.

The musical made its West End debut at London's Prince Edward Theatre in February 2008. The creative team were the same that brought the production to Broadway. The production won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The production will move to the Piccadilly Theatre in March 2014, and in May Miss Saigon will be moving into the Prince Edward Theatre.

That's it for tonight.  I said it would be a quickie, but I wanted to share what I learned about Cecil Court.  This city is filled with so much history that you'll never be able to tell it all, even if you lived here all your life and reported back daily.  Until tomorrow, have a good night.


  1. Was Cecil Court named after William Cecil (Lord Burghley)?

    Jersey Boys sounds wonderful. We are only beginning to see what comes through Calgary. It's fairly mixed, but doesn't seem to include many plays.

  2. According to Wikipedia: "It has been suggested that the street was named after Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, an important courtier to Queen Elizabeth I and renowned as a trailblazing spymaster. However, it seems to be one of a number of nearby streets and places that have been named for the land-owning family including Cranbourn Street and the Salisbury pub on St Martin's Lane." According to the website being maintained about the street, "It is still owned by the family from which it takes it name, the Cecil family of Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, who are the descendants of Robert Cecil, created first Earl of Salisbury by James I after he smoothed over the transition from the house of Tudor to that of the Stuarts." Not sure why they didn't say the name came from William Cecil since: "Robert Cecil was the son of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and Mildred Cooke. His half-brother was Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter and philosopher Francis Bacon was his first cousin," but they say the name of the court came from the son rather than the father.

    We are intending to go to a show again tonight. We love the theatre (a little obvious perhaps), but rarely go when we're home, so this is a treat for us.