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Carnaby Street The Musical – Opera House,Manchester

Writer: Carl Leighton-Pope

Director: Bob Tomson

Reviewer: Laura Ord


Carnaby StreetNot a single person in the audience is immune to the toe tapping, hand clapping sing along experience that is Carnaby Street The Musical, which follows the dreams and aspirations of wannabe pop star Jude (played by Matthew Wycliffe) and his friend Penny Lane (Verity Rushworth) as they move from Merseyside to London in a bid to find fame and fortune in a time when all you needed was a dream and a guitar. A chance encounter with band manager Jack (Aaron Sidwell) and lead singer Wild Thing (Mark Pearce) gives him the opportunity for his big break, and thus a very predictable but happy feel good plot is born.

Perhaps with character names like Jude and Penny Lane, you would be hoping for a few Beatles tracks mixed into the program, but alas they obviously couldn’t get the permission for the songs, so instead you have to make do with some verbal references to their success instead. Likewise, the show originally also included a Rolling Stones hit, but this had to be removed due to lack of permission to use it. However, this is the only disappointment in terms of the music that they have been able to use as the cast belt out tunes that are known to the audience both young and old.

However, there are so many songs in fact, that the writer Carl Leighton-Pope has managed to shoe horn 41 classic 60’s jukebox hits into this oh so predictable simple story. A few songs too many given that the characters are unable to develop as much as you would want, leaving you with stereotypes and caricatures galore. The little dialect that is in this story is predominantly cheesy lead-ins to the next big hit which makes the audience groan and cringe.This is Leighton-Popes first attempt at writing a musical and sadly this inexperience shows in the dialect and plot.

There are a few lovely performances among the cast. Paul Hazel as Lily the camp fashion designer manages to steal every scene he is in with his flamboyant, over the top wardrobe and beautifully executed stereotypical camp queen movements. Even his fingertips screamed gay as he prances around the stage.

Mark Pearce as Wild Thing, pulled off the complete opposite as a drunk rock singer who likes leather and rock ‘n’roll. His rendition of Born To Be Wild is wonderfully acted as opposed to just sung, trying to convey some more depth into his character than the limited script will allow.

Likewise, Tricia Adele-Turner as Jane acted equally as well while she cried out I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself after she discovered she was pregnant with Jude’s baby.

These are the standout three cast members among a reasonably talented cast. There are a few voices which could be better given that this musical is so heavily reliant on the songs with not so much as breathing space in between them. But the ensemble are a multi-disciplined lot, as they double up as part of the band during many of the big numbers, which gives them extra brownie points.

The high number of scene changes were dealt with in the form of newspaper seller Al (Gregory Clarke) who walks from one side of the stage to the other, providing witty or informative captions from the 1960’s in the form of headlines. This device works in that the scene changes appear quick and slick, as well as providing the odd chuckle or nostalgic ditty, but this repetitive method becomes annoying quickly and some of the jokes fall as flat as the storyline.

The first half feels a little bit forced and somewhat boring in stages. The plot begins paper thin. In contrast, the second half is jumping with energy and plot progression. The result being an auditorium full of people on their feet, dancing and singing along to the finale Lulu classic Shout.

If you are after complex characters, a meaty plot and some mind blowing performances then perhaps Carnaby Street The Musical is not for you. However, if you are a real fan of the 60’s, then I doubt you will care about these shortcomings as this is a real fun trip down memory lane as your favourite hits get blasted out from the energetic cast and talented house band.

Runs until: 25th May 2013


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