Review: Sunny Afternoon at Mayflower Theatre

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The hit musical Sunny Afternoon is a feel good, funny and rocky show suitable for all audiences to enjoy. With incredible live music and loveable characters, the show is one you will not want to miss!

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“Don’t wanna spend my life living in a rock and roll fantasy…”

Sunny Afternoon is a new rock musical based on the life and music of the band The Kinks – created by the band’s lead singer Ray Davies, it is an accurate representation of the 1960s band struggle for fame. With the growing popularity of Jukebox Musicals, Sunny Afternoon follows in the footsteps of popular productions such as We Will Rock You, Jersey Boys, and even Our House (which was also performed in Southampton this week). Having achieved a hugely successful run in the West End, the show now comes to Southampton as part of its UK tour.

Sunny Afternoon tells an honest, real life story of everyday guys from Muswell Hill, getting a one time opportunity to create music and to make a name for themselves in the world. The musical follows the extreme ups and downs of a journey to success, and the flipside of how the pressures of fame can torment and affect your life. The show tackles a broad range of issues from money, to politics, to family, to loyalty; there is something in it for every audience member to relate too. The story is heartwarming, and you become attached to the quirky band who grow up and learn the ways of the world together.

A strong cast is needed to pull off the distinctively individual characters of the show, and this production certainly delivered. Lead Singer Ray Davies was played by the loveable Ryan O’Donnell, who gave the role great charisma, making him a character you root for as he won the audience over with his first few chords. His natural rocky voice suited the role perfectly, and he displayed an impressive range of pitch and dynamic. Ray’s younger brother, ‘Dave the Rave’, is known for always wearing silly outfits and always having a bottle in hand. He’s the rebel and joker of the band, played here excellently by Mark Newnham. He had the audience laughing throughout the show with his eccentric behaviour and witty comments. Mick the drummer, played by Andrew Gallo, is notable for his dry humour, and bassist Pete, played by Garmon Rhys, is the insecure and lost soul, complete the foursome of the Kinks.

Ray continually stresses to the band’s managers in the production that ‘it’s about the music’ and that is all that should matter. The show is rich with music, and the band’s live performances provide an atmosphere that feels as though we could be at a rock concert. Gallo as Mick excels on the drums, displaying his skill in a technical and rhythmic drum solo that had all of the audience cheering. The show provided a nice mixture and contrast of acoustic and electric songs to reflect the light and dark moments of the storyline. A memorable moment is when the band and their managers reflect, and do an a capella version of ‘Days’. The tones of all the men create a five part harmony that is beautiful to listen too, and it provides a moment of calm in all the chaos of their journey. The show of course plays the Kinks’ biggest hits, including the catchy ‘You really got me’, the iconic ‘Lola’, and of course the shows title hit ‘Sunny Afternoon’. A highlight is the final section of the show, where all the band come back together and play a mix of all the best hits to get all the audience up on their feet. Everyone was clapping and singing along, and a great energy was felt throughout the theatre. There was a great buzz after the show.

This is a musical that can be enjoyed by all, not just regular theatre goers. It’s not over the top and exaggerated as some conventional musicals can be, instead honest and stripped back, meaning it appeals to all audiences. Adults who have known the Kinks since their childhood would greatly enjoy this musical on their hits, but equally younger and older audiences can enjoy the show for its great music and will learn about the renown band. I would highly recommend taking a trip out to see this show, as it guarantees a funny and enjoyable evening for all.

Sunny Afternoon plays in Mayflower Theatre until tomorrow evening (Saturday 10th December).

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