Writers: Carl Leighton-Pope &Robert Johns
Director : Bob Tomson
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
Carnaby Street, at Milton Keynes for this week only, is a new, colourful musical which takes you right back to London in the Sixties. The musical follows a working class Liverpool lad called Jude, new to the city with guitar in hand and Penny in tow, as he follows his dreams and secures a record deal. In so doing he attempts to become a music icon… but all is not as it seems. Set against the backdrop of London’s West End in a time of so much change and such special music, one sees its iconic clubs, fashion and characters, and learns the story of a generation.
One can never be sure what to expect of these musicals, especially with such a plethora around at present, but this show is packed with classic hits from the era, including Roll Over Beethoven, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Tired of Waiting For You, You Really Got Me, Keep on Running, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Go Now to name but a few. Carl Leighton-Pope’s creation, from his own experiences, proves a must-watch for wannabe hippies, mods and rockers or anyone who loves the swinging 60s. Leighton-Pope acknowledged that the musical was 16 years in the making, but those years were well used as this partially autobiographical show tells an interesting if light story, quite cleverly interlinked with songs from the time and super retro costumes.
Aaron Sidwell as the easy-going and ever hopeful Jack Sprat takes us into the story, as well as being the band manager and does a very sound job. He is a bundle of energy. Jude is brought to us by Jonny Bower with cool style, especially when he plays the guitar behind his head while singing! He has a great voice but does need to work a little on his acting and his not-always Liverpudlian accent. A charming performance, however. His duet with Jane,I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, was lovely and what super harmonies. Tricia Adele Turner performs Jane and is not only utterly believable but has an amazing voice. Her rendition of the Dusty Springfield numbers in particular is brilliant. As Penny, Aimie Atkinson, the sweet Liverpool ingénue in love with Jude, is spot on and very convincing. She maintains her accent throughout. What a voice and range and her last song, Lulu’s Shout – wow! Lily is a great character and Paul Hazel more than does it justice. He has real soul when he sings Son Of A Preacher Man. Great comic expressions. He would make a fab drag queen! Mark Pearce, Wild Thing or T, has a gravelly voice that really suits songs like Mustang Sally which he belts out. He does the rocker to a tee. Hugo Harold-Harrison delivers the suave but arrogant Arnold with style and credibility. He definitely shows his vocal power and dance moves in the second act.
Gregory Clarke does a good Al and is a snazzy guitarist and he is amusing as the newspaper vendor but it gets a tad tiring, as do the jokes. The story is fluffy and unsurprisingly cheesy but works as a vehicle for the songs, the set is simple and effective while the costumes perfectly describe the era.
The whole cast are very talented singers, dancers and musicians, several doing all three. Dynamic and lively performances from all, with the bonus of an on-stage band.Bob Tomson’s direction is clearly sharp and choreography very apt and adapted well to this stage.
The finale is a run through of a few iconic swinging 60s hits with all of us up dancing and singing. Great fun had by all!
Runs until Sat 7 Sep 2013