★★★ | Sunny Afternoon
In this musical biopic, the swinging sixties are brought back to life as Sunny Afternoon tells the story of the early days of the classic British band, The Kinks, as they fight with their management and with each other on the road to fame. Featuring a slew of classic songs, including “Waterloo Sunset“, “You Really Got Me”, “Lola”, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” and “Sunny Afternoon”, the show charts the on-stage antics, backroom bickering and personal lives of one of Britain’s seminal rock and roll bands.
Whilst the production gives a flavour of the band’s history, the narrative is stripped back to allow for the soundtrack to take pride of place. The show never really provides any detailed or thorough insight into the band, their relationships or into the music industry of the 60s, but instead offers a show brimming with musical numbers which sit fairly comfortably within the story and remind you just how many great songs the band have done. The musical numbers veer from the tender ballads to some raw and energetic performances, with one of the musical highlights of the show being an acapella version of “Days“.
Using a wall of speakers, the recording studio style set was visually striking; and a runway from the stage leading out into the audience added gravitas to the concert style feel of the piece and drew the audience in. The costumes accurately reflected the stunning sixties style and period detail littered the set; whilst the lighting design fitted the bill without ever being intrusive.
Ryan O’Donnell provided a charismatic performance as Ray Davies, bringing with it an air of a thoughtful, reflective and somewhat fame-resistant individual to whom music was the most important thing, which was juxtaposed nicely with Mark Newnham’s confident performance as pill popping, hard drinking and cross-dressing Dave Davies. But what impressed most was the musical talent on display with the cast playing a variety of musical instruments; and in a play which holds the musical numbers out as its key feature, live performances like these really bring the show to life.
Sunny Afternoon presents as a nostalgic slice of the sixties which benefits from a soundtrack comprising of more hits from the band than you thought you knew; and an interesting, if light, insight into the band which helped define the era.
Sunny Afternoon is currently on tour around the UK until May 2017 (visit www.sunnyafternoonthemusical.com for details) and is currently playing at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre (www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk) until 29th October 2016.