Sunny Afternoon charts the rise of 1960s British rock band, The Kinks and if you don’t already adore their incredible back catalogue, then you will after seeing this hit musical.
Upon entering the auditorium we see an open stage, able to look upon the band warming up and the simple, yet extremely effective set which, throughout, allows the stage to be transformed from a teenager’s bedroom in a Muswell Hill flat to the rock ‘n’ roll stage at Madison Square Gardens, New York.
The costumes are wonderfully reflective of the time and are a nostalgic time travel back to the fashions of the era. In fact, one of the stand out musical numbers ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ sees Dave Davies donning a sharp suit and a feather boa whilst the rest of the band perform a dance routine with shop mannequins-utterly good fun!
The band’s story lends itself perfectly to its musical adaptation; a rags to riches tale with plenty of love, heartache, fame, fortune and even a few punch ups! But this is more than your average jukebox musical with every piece of music beautifully intertwined within the narrative including a stunning acappella rendition of ‘Days’ and a show stopping version of ‘Sunny Afternoon’ which combines a hark back to England’s 1966 World Cup victory (and could easily have been the finale!)
The production includes a stellar cast who not only provide various reincarnations of the story’s colourful characters but who also play a number of musical instruments throughout the piece (kudos to Andrew Gallo as Mick Avory for his immense drum solo!) Special mention must also go to Ryan O’Donnell as Ray Davies and Mark Newnham as his brother Dave-both flawless performances.
“Will they still be playing it in 30 years time?” asks lead singer Ray Davies, talking of his self penned title song. Well, it’s been over 50 years and I’m now evermore convinced that this ground breaking music will live on for a lot longer yet!
Venue Cymru, Llandudno
February 14th-18th 2017
Authors: Ray Davies music and lyrics, Joe Penhall book, based on an original story by Ray Davies
Director: Edward Hall
Design: Miriam Buether set and costume, Rick Fisher lighting, Matt McKenzie for Autograph sound
Musical Supervisor : Elliott Ware
Choreographer: Adam Cooper
Technical: Tom Nickson production manager, David Curl company stage manager, Deborah Andrews costume supervisor, Carole Hancock at Hum Studio wigs, Robyn Hardy, Hannah Sharp props supervisors, Suzanne Crowley, Gilly Poole casting for Hampstead and West End, Natalie Gallacher for Pippa Ailion casting for West End
Cast includes: Victoria Anderson, Nathanael Campbell, Tomm Coles, Deryn Edwards, Andrew Gallo, Richard Hurst, Sophie-Leigh Griffin, Mark Newnham, Ryan O’Donnell, Garmon Rhys, Joseph Richardson, Robert Took, Michael Warburton, Libby Watts, Lucy Wilkerson, Lisa Wright
Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions with Tulchin Bartner Productions, Greg Ripley Duggan for Hampstead Theatre Productions, Tanya Link Productions, Just for Laughs Theatricals/Glass Half Full Productions, Rupert Gavin
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes (with a 15 minute interval)
With speckled references to the hits throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.
(5 / 5)
As we’re teased with references to the iconic You Really Got Me in the opening sequence there’s already a palpable sense of anticipation pulsing around the auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre as the cast of Sunny Afternoon prepare to take us on a 2½ hour musical journey through The Kinks rise to stardom. From the early days in North London; their debut on Top of the Pops; the infamous American tour; through to their triumphant comeback, Joe Penhall ingeniously weaves the hit songs from the 60s into the storytelling of one of the most influential bands of the era.
Our story begins in Muswell Hill, with performances by Ryan O’Donnell & Mark Newnham perfect characterisations of the often tense professional relationship between the rebellious Davies brothers, as they navigate the initial tensions to discovering the bands distinctive sound, the start of a journey which would shape a unique musical identity that would inspire generations. Throughout the evening O’Donnell, Newnham (a highlight performance), Gallo, Rhys and the supporting ensemble, blend effortlessly to recreate the iconic sound of the band, in what is a moving portrayal of both the professional and the personal lives of the band and their adjustment to the pressures of stardom. With references to the hits speckled throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.
Throughout the exploration of the soaring highs and the frustrating lows the band encounter, we join the cast in a celebration of how four working class musicians from North London changed the music scene for generations to come. Dead end street, weaved masterfully into Penhall’s narrative, particularly highlighting how the bands upbringing proved an ongoing source of inspiration for Ray’s writing with the majority of the works involving similar elements of social commentary, which inevitably played a large part in their then and ongoing appeal.
The staging enables the cast to create a certain intimacy during acoustic interludes including This Time Tomorrow and Thank you for the Days, contrasted with the gig feel of the iconic All Day and All of the Night & roof raising end sequence, and quirks of the choreography and use of props lend themselves especially well to the playfulness of numbers such as Dedicated Follower of Fashion.
The universal appeal of Sunny Afternoon makes it a must-see irrespective of whether you know the band or the songs. If you know The Kinks you’ll love it, if you don’t know the Kinks you’ll love it. A feel good musical and a moving portrayal to one of the defining bands of the 60s who will continue to inspire generations to come.
Ray Davies – Ryan O’Donnell
Dave Davies – Mark Newnham
Mick Avory – Andrew Gallo
Pete Quaife – Garmon Rhys
Music & Lyrics – Ray Davies
Book – Joe Penhall
Original Story – Ray Davies
Director – Edward Hall
Designer – Miriam Buether
Choreographer – Adam Cooper
Lighting – Rick Fisher
Sound – Matt Mckenzie
Musical Supervisor – Elliot Ware