The Sixties weren’t the era dubbed ‘swinging’ for nothing. It was the time of great music being born and bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were holding court to the screaming masses. There was another band on the block though shaping the sound of the Sixties, made in Muswell Hill, London and going by the name of The Kinks.
Sunny Afternoon pays homage to the four young cockney lads who made up that band famous for singing simple songs about life in London and what a wonderful time it was. The musical, penned by original band member Ray Davies, first took to the stage in 2014 and since then has enjoyed a successful run in the West End bagging itself four Oliviers on the way, including Best New Musical. Manchester now gets the chance to cast its eye on the show becoming the first stop on its premiere UK Tour, with a week long run at the Opera House.
Unlike other musicals that feature the back catalogues of songs from famous bands (We Will Rock You-Queen, Mama Mia-ABBA) Sunny Afternoon uses all the well-known hits in a biographical way charting the creation of The Kinks and the ups and downs they encounter as they embark on stardom.
Ryan O’Donnell puts in a captivating performance in the lead role of Ray Davies, the reluctant pop star more at home composing songs than on tour singing them. His vocals are pitch perfect and executed with such raw emotion you really feel he means every word.
O’Donnell previously performed as the alternate Ray during Sunny Afternoon’s West End run and it’s great to see him bag the role for good as part of the UK tour. His co-stars are equally as talented, Mark Newham putting every ounce of energy he has into playing Ray’s younger brother Dave, as he manically strums the bass guitar and behaves like a childish rock star vying to be centre of attention with his frenzied antics.
Garmon Rhys is believable as shy bassist Peter Quaife but it’s Andrew Gallo who almost steals the show as the bands percussionist Mickey Avery, performing an impressive drum solo that seems to go on forever, to the delight of the audience.
One of the refreshing things about Sunny Afternoon is that it isn’t a musical full of bubble gum sweetness and karaoke classics. At times it’s gritty, the music is raw, and there’s more than a sprinkling of expletives in the script.
There’s some wonderful moments to watch out for, from the goosebump inducing guitar strumming of You Really Got Me to the poignant a cappella version of another of The Kinks greatest hits, Days.
If you weren’t a fan of The Kinks before, you will leave the theatre wanting to hear more of their music but not before jumping to your feet to dance along to their toe tapping tracks in the show’s rousing encore. A standing ovation well deserved, congratulations Ray Davies, you really got me!
Sunny Afternoon – Opera House, Manchester
Friday 19 to Saturday 27 August
For more tour information www.sunnyafternoonthemusical.com