Writers: Carl Leighton-Pope/ Robert Johns
Director: Bob Tomson
Musical Director: Dan Smith
Reviewer: Bill Avenell
It is not often that you see a packed Theatre Royal audience on its feet and jigging in the aisles as it was at the end of last night’s show. No doubt some of that is down to the enduring ‘sing-a-long’ nature of those 60s hits so that any compilation worth its salt will get some of the audience going. But there is more to this musical than just a load of old songs. The musicality of the cast for one thing.
Telling a simple and predictable tale of a Liverpudlian couple who come to London looking for ‘something to turn up’, finding the time honoured group of a jack-the-lad would be manager, a transvestite boutique owner, an oily entrepreneur, a rocker group leader and an upper class dolly bird groupie this script doesn’t set the world on fire. But although it is not a great musical, the music is great. Even without the copyrighted classics there are enough really well known 60’s hits to give the show a purpose and to provide the raw material for the aforementioned excellent cast.
And the musical performances keep on coming. The backing group led by Dan Smith are cleverly kept largely in the background but every now and then give us a classy solo. Virtually every one of the 19 on stage has a moment in the spotlight and not one of them fails. Some of the highlights are a duet of Poison Ivy by Lily (Paul Hazel) and Penny (Aimie Atkinson), a soulful Don’t Throw Your Love Away by Jane (Tricia Adele-Turner) and a Tom Jones take off in Green Green Grass by Dan Smith. But apart from the solos it is the general high standard of music that makes it such an enjoyable evening. Jill Cardo, Rachel Nottingham and Katia Sartini prancing round the stage with their trumpet and sax trio, Jonny Bower as the would be star Jude playing guitar behind his neck and then of course the expected but nonetheless vibrant concluding medley that finally brought Brighton to its feet.
Bob Tomson’s direction is suitably slick, Carôle Todd’s choreography keeps the whole show moving well and the subtle clothes style changes give a true 60s’s feel. Despite the limitations of the story line, one of the other enjoyable aspects of Carl Leighton-Pope’s show is the way that he has incorporates the songs into the script and not the other way around. Moreover, the time line provided by newspaper seller Al, wittily played by Gregory Clarke, is nicely intertwined with the mood of the individual songs and this gives a thoroughly authentic feel to the tale.
And so to the finale. With such a range of musical talents on show it is bound to be good and it doesn’t disappoint and if you want something to send you out in to cold night air of Brighton with a warm glow then Aimie Atkinson’s final number does just that. You won’t have to be able to remember Janice Nicholls to Give It Foive.
Carnaby Street runs at the Theatre Royal Brighton until Saturday 19th October 2013