Vivienne Kennedy reviews Sunny Afternoon, the award-winning musical based on the music of The Kinks, playing at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 11 March
Written by Joe Penhall but based on Ray Davies’ own story, Sunny Afternoon reveals the highs and lows of the The Kinks’ journey to pop success, taking us from the band’s formation in 1964 to the end of that decade.
It’s an interesting story with elements of both light and shade, touching on class divides, Ray and Dave Davies’ sibling rivalry, their sister’s untimely death, management issues, Ray’s marriage, and the four years The Kinks spent banned from playing in the United States following a dispute with the musicians’ union.
The cast are super talented, demonstrating that “triple threat” needed to succeed in musical theatre over and over again. In fact, many of them are more like “quadruple threats”, superb musicians as well as actors, singers and dancers.
Ryan O’Donnell and Mark Newnham are perfect as Ray and Dave (those voices, wow), but I also enjoyed watching and listening to Garmon Rhys as bassist Pete Quaife and Andrew Gallo as drummer Mick Avory and I was very glad to see the latter get his moment in the spotlight with an incredible drum solo. The supporting cast are strong too, most of them switching between several roles with ease.
I guess it could be said that the real star of the show is the music, most of it very familiar and including a few tracks that I knew but hadn’t realised Ray Davies had written. There were so many highlights including Dedicated Follower of Fashion, You Really Got Me, Waterloo Sunset and, of course, the title track, Sunny Afternoon, performed against a setting of England’s 1966 World Cup victory, a scene that left me feeling strangely patriotic for the first time in quite a while. If pushed to choose a favourite it would probably be an absolutely beautiful a capella rendition of Thank You For The Days, which left me close to tears.
It’s a longish show, just under three hours, and perhaps some time could’ve been shaved from some of the non-musical sections in Act Two, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a moment of the music and the final treat came in the form of a fantastic finale medley, including the wonderful Lola, which is one of today’s earworms.
Sunny Afternoon runs at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 11 March and comes highly recommended for fans of The Kinks, musical theatre aficionados, and anyone who loves good music.
For further information, and to book online, visit www.atgtickets.com
Photo – Ryan O’Donnell (Ray Davies). Credit Kevin Cummins.