Sunny Afternoon originally opened at the Hampstead Theatre in 2014 but transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End last year after sensational reviews and a clamour for tickets. It was understudy night when I was sent to review the Olivier award-winning musical based on the music of The Kinks.
With music and lyrics by Ray Davies, Sunny Afternoon follows the story of Ray and the formation of his band, The Kinks. Joe Penhall’s book is lively and well paced and follows the band’s highs and lows; their exploits and how they were exploited, their American tour and their commitments back home.
At first sight, we had enviously glamorous seats. Not for us the cramped seats of the stalls; we were to be sat at a bar table at the front near the side of the stage. As we sat down, we were blissfully unaware of the terror to come, for less than a metre away from our delicate little ears was a very large, speaker. As the show progressed and the band experimented with a bolder, more progressive style the sound and buzz got louder and louder. We had to keep grabbing the drinks before they pulsed and shook their way off the table. The reverberations were so thunderous I could feel my organs vibrate. This was actually a rather pleasing sensation. However, our ears hurt badly. Table B is simply too close to the speaker. Do not sit there!
Directed by Edward Hall, the show is nippy, colourful and euphoric. Perhaps my favourite moment was the jubilant celebrations of England’s triumph in the 1966 World Cup, accompanied by the song ‘Sunny Afternoon’ and a red, blue and white petal drop in the auditorium. The magic of the theatre only slightly spoiled by the sight of the bloke chucking said petals over the rail of the balcony.
The cast gave buoyant and enthusiastic performances. The singing was flawless and the choreography slick and skilfully performed. There were two stand-out performances. Ryan O’Donnell was superb and faultless as Ray Davies and Robbie White was mesmeric as Ray’s petulant younger brother, the increasingly anarchic, druggy, cross-dressing Dave Davies. In one hedonistic scene, he swings from a chandelier with such wild, reckless abandon, White is entirely convincing in the role.
It is a joyous and uplifting show, I hope Sunny Afternoon runs and runs.
Review by Laura-Jane Foley
Ray Davies’ extraordinary life story told with Music and Lyrics by Ray Davies, a new Book by Joe Penhall, Direction by Edward Hall and Design by Miriam Buether, Sunny Afternoon explores the rise to stardom of The Kinks.
Set against the back-drop of a Britain caught mid-swing between the conservative 50s and riotous 60s, Sunny Afternoon explores the euphoric highs and agonising lows of one of Britain’s most iconic bands, and the music that influenced generations.
Following a sell-out run at Hampstead Theatre, SUNNY AFTERNOON opened to critical acclaim at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End in October 2014.
SUNNY AFTERNOON has music and lyrics by Ray Davies with a book by Joe Penhall and original story by Ray Davies. It is directed by Edward Hall, designed by Miriam Buether with choreography by Adam Cooper. Lighting design is by Rick Fisher with sound design by Matt McKenzie for Autograph. The Musical Supervisor is Elliott Ware.
The original West End Production of SUNNY AFTERNOON is produced by 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, in association with Hampstead Theatre and Arlon Productions.
Harold Pinter Theatre
Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Show Opened: 4th Oct 2014
Booking Until: 28th May 2016
SUNNY AFTERNOON 2016/2017 TOUR
Friday 19 August – Saturday 27 August 2016
Manchester Opera House
Tuesday 30 August– Saturday 3 September 2016
Milton Keynes Theatre
Tuesday 6 September – Saturday 10 September 2016
New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham
Tuesday 13 September – Saturday 17 September 2016
Tuesday 20 September – Saturday 24 September 2016
Southend Cliffs Pavillion
Tuesday 27 September – Saturday 1 October 2016
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
Tuesday 4 October – Saturday 8 October 2016
Tuesday 11 October – Saturday 15 October 2016
Glasgow Kings Theatre
Tuesday 18 October – Saturday 22 October 2016
Torquay Princess Theatre
Tuesday 1 November – Saturday 5 November 2016
New Victoria Theatre Woking
Tuesday 15 November – Saturday 19 November 2016
Orchard Theatre, Dartford
Tuesday 29 November – Saturday 3 December 2016
Stoke Regent Theatre
Tuesday 13 December – Saturday 31 December 2016
Theatre Royal Brighton
Tuesday 31 January – Saturday 4 February 2017
Oxford New Theatre
Tuesday 7 February – Saturday 11 February 2017
Liverpool Empire, Liverpool
Tuesday 21 February – Saturday 25 February 2017
Grand Opera House, York
Tuesday 7 March – Saturday 11 March 2017
Bristol Hippodrome, Bristol