Reviewed by Matt Forrest
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The acapella group Fisherman’s Friends rise is nothing short of remarkable. From humble beginnings in the Cornish village of Port Isaac through to playing the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Along the way there is a gold selling album, numerous national and international tours, two feature films and now Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical, a fantastic, feel-good production, that will see your emotions bob up and down like a buoy on a choppy night in the North Sea.
Based on a true story, the story begins showing the two passions of our protagonists, fishing and singing, as the group bring in the catch of the day, during some pretty hazardous conditions, all done with a song in their hearts. It’s a neat introduction to Lucy Osborne’s fabulous looking set that manages to fill the huge stage of the Lyric theatre. Fishing boat, local pub and even a Soho night club, the staging is top draw.
Back on dry land we meet the gang, led by Jim, his father, Jago, as well numerous villagers and salty sea dogs where loyalty, and friendship is as important as keeping their traditions alive and having a well-earned pint. They are all kept in check by Jim’s daughter, Alwyn, who is also a great singer in her own right. The arrival of Danny, a former A & R executive at Island Records will see the seafaring folk enter uncharted territory; Danny who is blown away by the group’s harmonies and just a little smitten with Alwyn hatches a plan.
Danny hopes to have the group record a demo, land them a record deal and hopefully save his own flagging career. However, it’s not all plain sailing and Danny must gain the trust of the group and Alwyn; and that’s just the start of his problems.
Whilst the plot isn’t the most original or ground-breaking story telling you’re ever likely to see, with its fish-out-of-water meets rags to riches familiar tropes, the production has plenty of a heart, soul and a huge sense of fun, it’s certainly one of the most up lifting nights at the theatre I’ve had in quite some time. Fantastic musicians, stirring vocal blends and powerful solo’s, this production more than delivers when honouring the legacy of the band.
As you might expect there are a great number of sea shanties featured including Blow the Man Down and (What Shall We Do with the) Drunken Sailor and songs that the band have made their own, Keep Hauling and the absolute banger that is No Hopers, Jokers & Rogues.
The performances are outstanding throughout, Jason Langley’s Danny is often the comic foil throughout the show. Langley turns in a fine comedy performance and has a great singing voice to match. Parisa Shahmir as the feisty Alwyn is the perfect match for Langley and the chemistry between the two is the driving force of the whole production. Her stunning vocal performance on The Tidal Pool is absolutely gorgeous.
There is strong support from Hedrian Delacey, as Jim the band’s unofficial leader who expresses his mistrust over unfolding events. Delacey walks the tightrope between caring father figure and cynical patriarch exceptionally well. In addition, we have Robert Duncan and Susan Penhaligon as Jim’s parents Jago and Maggie, the beating heart of the community, both clearly having a ball as the mischief makers in chief, who have been around the block enough times to know that you shouldn’t squander life’s opportunities.
The music is performed by cast members, who are ever present on stage throughout giving the production a feel of authenticity. I’ve been to enough folk nights to see people getting up and joining in. There is some outstanding musicianship on display throughout the show.
You don’t have to be familiar with the story of the Fisherman’s Friends or even know the music, to enjoy this rousing, upbeat story, just get comfy and let it wash over you. Watching it made me think of hot chocolate, an open log fire, and a cosy night on the couch under a blanket, just some life’s little joys and treasures that offer comfort and are good for the soul, and Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is no exception to this.
Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is on at The Lowry until Saturday 1st October, tickets available here.