Sunny Afternoon on a very sunny afternoon 06/08/16

MTAS Member Ceri Davies reviews Sunny Afternoon for @MTAS_Official

Seeing as I live round the corner from Muswell Hill, where they’re from, and share a surname with the two brothers in the band, I thought it was about time I went to see the winner of the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, Sunny Afternoon at the Harold Pinter Theatre, and TodayTix’s offer this week was too good to refuse.

Set against the back-drop of a Britain caught between the conservative 50s and swinging 60s and with Music and Lyrics by Ray Davies (Original member of The Kinks), a new Book by Joe Penhall and Direction by Edward Hall, the show depicts the rise to stardom of The Kinks. Also woven into this musical are the Davies brothers’ sibling rivalry, Ray’s rushed marriage, their management problems and their subsequent banning from the US following a dispute with the musicians’ union.

The show opens with them as The Ravens with Robert Wace as their lead singer, singing in country clubs. The first words you hear from the band are ‘F*ck it’ before launching into the sound that is much more ‘them’ (Due to bad language and sexual references I wouldn’t recommend this show to young children). Wace, then realising that he is finished as a singer, becomes their manager along with Grenville Collins and the story goes from there. At times it felt like some of the story was rushed and therefore difficult to follow for those who don’t know anything about The Kinks, but I guess that’s not surprising when trying to cram several years into 2.5 hours.

Sunny Afternoon features 33 Kinks songs. These are split between those used to tell the story (not in release date order and spanning their 30 year career) and those that are ‘performances’ or ‘recording sessions’ from the years the show covers. This theatre has a Loud Zone and for good reason. Even sitting four rows back from this I could feel the bass in my stomach and my ears were ringing! Don’t be put off by this though, it’s only during their ‘performances’ and really gives it the feel of being at a rock gig!

Danny Horn as Ray Davies is the perfect choice, from his portrayal of the man himself, to his voice. This is his first musical and he believes it will probably be his last due to not really having a ‘musical theatre’ voice. We’ll just have to hope for more shows where he can show off his vocal talents in the future.

All four guys work perfectly together and sound just like the real thing.

Another cast member making their West End Debut is Megan Leigh Mason as Ray’s wife, Rasa. She has an absolutely beautiful voice and her duets with Ray really pull you into their story.

At this performance Dave Davies was played Robbie White who understudies every member of the Kinks as well as being assistant dance captain! He was fantastic, and played the wild rock and roll star to a tee, including swinging from a chandelier in a pink nightie!

The stage has a catwalk that comes through the first few rows of the audience, and the cast dance through the auditorium at points throughout the show which really makes you feel part of action. It’s also great to see the band on stage rather than tucked away in the pit, with a lot of the cast members also playing instruments. So nice to see it being played live rather than having actors miming along.

Despite some of the dark themes of the show, there are plenty of comic moments. Lots of the jokes are nods to things that actually happened years after this is set (i.e. ‘You wouldn’t find John Lennon spending days in bed with his wife’ as a dig at Ray who’s done just that when depressed after their return from America).

The title song Sunny Afternoon is one of the most patriotic things you’ll see iKC_7582rn the West End at the moment (German’s may want to look away now). The song came out in the summer of ’66 when England were flying high in the World Cup. The whole cast sings along to this classic, with soundbites of the commentary from the Final playing in the background
whilst under a shower of red, white and Blue confetti! This currently has even more meaning as this summer celebrates 50 years since both the song and England’s first (and last) World Cup win.

Days is sung acapella by the band and their managers with gorgeous harmonies and is a really magical, gentle moment in an otherwise rather loud show.

The final song shows how they built it from just the bass line to eventually become the classic Waterloo Sunset everyone knows and loves, and it was great to watch the audience once they started to realise what song it was (thanks to my in depth study of it for my A levels I got it from the very first play of the bass line!) This song did feel like a bit of an 277282_770_previewanticlimax to the show, but in good old Mamma Mia style there was a great encore section to fit in the only one of their big hits that couldn’t be fit anywhere else in the show. Everyone was encouraged to get on their feet and sing along with the cast to Lola, not that much encouragement was needed as everyone had been itching to sing and dance all night! The encore really did feel like you were at a Kinks gig.

All in all this is a fun night out, especially if you love the music of The Kinks. Unfortunately this production is closing on October 29th, but the UK tour starts in Manchester on the 19th of August (full list of dates below) so go and see it in a town near you soon!

Overall 4/5

4 out of 5

Sunny Afternoon is currently playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 29th October 2016. The show is also on a UK tour throughout 2016/17 at the following venues / dates. For more information visit http://sunnyafternoonthemusical.com/ 

  • MANCHESTER OPERA HOUSE – 19/08/2016 – 27/08/2016

  • MILTON KEYNES THEATRE – 30/08/2016 – 03/09/2016

  • NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE BIRMINGHAM – 06/09/2016 – 10/09/2016

  • EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE – 13/09/2016 – 17/09/2016

  • SOUTHEND CLIFFS PAVILION – 20/09/2016 – 24/09/2016

  • AYLESBURY WATERSIDE THEATRE – 27/09/2016 – 01/10/2016

  • SUNDERLAND EMPIRE – 04/10/2016 – 08/10/2016

  • GLASGOW KING’S THEATRE – 11/10/2016 – 15/10/2016

  • TORQUAY PRINCESS THEATRE – 18/10/2016 – 22/10/2016

  • LYCEUM THEATRE SHEFFIELD – 25/10/2016 – 29/10/2016

  • NEW VICTORIA THEATRE WOKING – 01/11/2016 – 05/11/2016

  • ABERDEEN HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE – 08/11/2016 – 12/11/2016

  • ORCHARD THEATRE DARTFORD – 15/11/2016 – 19/11/2016

  • STOKE REGENT THEATRE – 29/11/2016 – 03/12/2016

  • SOUTHAMPTON MAYFLOWER THEATRE – 06/12/2016 – 10/12/2016

  • THEATRE ROYAL BRIGHTON – 13/12/2016 – 31/12/2016

  • ROYAL & DERNGATE NORTHAMPTON – 10/01/2017 – 14/01/2017

  • CARDIFF WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE – 17/01/2017 – 21/01/2017

  • NOTTINGHAM THEATRE ROYAL – 24/01/2017 – 28/01/2017

  • OXFORD NEW THEATRE – 31/01/2017 – 04/02/2017

  • LIVERPOOL EMPIRE – 07/02/2017 – 11/02/2017

  • VENUE CYMRU LLANDUDNO – 14/02/2017 – 18/02/2017

  • GRAND OPERA HOUSE YORK – 21/02/2017 – 25/02/2017

  • ALHAMBRA THEATRE BRADFORD – 28/02/2017 – 04/03/2017

  • BRISTOL HIPPODROME – 07/03/2017 – 11/03/2017

  • MARLOWE THEATRE CANTERBURY – 04/04/2017 – 08/04/2017

  • GRAND OPERA HOUSE BELFAST – 02/05/2017 – 06/05/2017

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