Review: Sunny Afternoon at the Hippodrome
PUBLISHED: 13:40 08 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:40 08 March 2017
A breath of fresh air swept through Bristol’s Hippodrome theatre last night (Tuesday) as the smash hit West End musical about the early years of one of Britain’s greatest rock bands hit the city.
Olivier Award-winning Sunny Afternoon tells the story of the meteoric rise to stardom of The Kinks who exploded onto the swinging 1960s music scene with a raw and energetic new sound which took the nation by storm.
To say sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were all in abundance in the rags to riches story is an understatement, as all the other clichés from trashing hotel rooms, to inter-band rivalry leading to punch ups, management riffs and constant media attention all featured heavily in the lives of frontman Ray Davies and his cohorts too.
The refreshing romp down memory lane is hinged on the music, lyrics and storyline by Ray Davies himself and all the hits are there right from the start with the tantalising guitar riff of You Really Got Me played over and over again while the story of how the iconic tune came to be is played out.
The narrative, based on the book by Joe Penhall, centres around their best-known songs, with Dead End Street describing the time before they were famous, Dedicated Follower of Fashion explaining how their image was created, All Day and All of the Night represents how much of their lives were taken over by their quest for fame and fortune and Sunny Afternoon and Waterloo Sunset are played at their gigs, at the height of their success.
Musical highlights for me were the versions of Stop Your Sobbing and I Go To Sleep which Ray Davies wrote but were made famous by his partner during the 1980s Chrissie Hyde, who recorded them with her band The Pretenders, being more my era than the early Kinks hits and they were one of my favourite bands of the time.
Along with the amazing acoustics, the slick staging is what really makes the show and the runway off the stage and into the audience, with the ‘fans’ at the side of the stage, ready to mob the band are an inspired way of making the audience feel they are at one of the band’s concerts through much of the production.
From the speakers which make up the main backdrop which represent the music studio, to the hotel scene complete with swinging chandelier and concert hall stages, the lighting, effects and props are mesmerising and the scene-changes seamless.
The undoubted star of the show is the charismatic Ryan O’Donnell who plays Ray and manages to portray the singer-songwriter’s quirky creativeness, coupled with his deep fragility and vulnerability with equal ability to his flawless vocals. A musical talent he no doubt gleaned from his four years in the rock band Jethro Tull.
Special mention must also go to Mark Newnham as Ray’s brother and lead guitarist Dave Davies and Garmon Rhys as bassist Pete Quaife who were also excellent and gave faultless performances.
The production fizzes with energy and certainly left the Hippodrome audience in high spirits after getting up on their feet to accompany the cast singing a rousing few numbers at the end.
A four-times award-winner at the 2015 Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and Outstanding Achievement in Music for Ray Davies, the show is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and Ambassador Theatre Group.
Sunny Afternoon is at the Hippodrome from today (Wednesday) until Saturday, with performances at 7.30pm each night and 2.30pm today, Thursday and Saturday.
Tickets, priced £15-£69.50, are available via the Hippodrome website.