Sunny Afternoon – Milton Keynes Theatre

Book: Joe Penhall
Music and Lyrics: Ray Davies
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer: Maggie Constable

When the weather is as glorious as it has been in Milton Keynes this week, there is no better way to hold on to that summer feeling than to head down to the theatre for Sunny Afternoon and hear iconic numbers such as Waterloo Sunset, Lola, You Really Got Me and, of course, Sunny Afternoon itself, to name but a few.

Winner of four Olivier awards, Sunny Afternoon charts the rise of The Kinks from the latter part of their early days in music to their life as rock stars living the 60s dream. We get a real insight into the band’s voyage of discovery with all its ups and downs as well as an understanding of how their very special and instantly recognisable sound came about. We also get to see the guys’ lives and loves, warts and all.

Ryan O’Donnell takes on the lead role of Ray Davies and is rarely off the stage. He is utterly convincing and even looks a little like Davies. He gets across the sense of being fixated, almost on the ‘spectrum’ at times, as much as he does the nuances of the character and the musical genius. An excellent voice, particularly in the duets. Deryn Edwards as Marsha/Mrs Davies is very believable and has a lovely voice. The harmonies in the duets with her hubby are perfect. She also plays acoustic guitar and runs around the stage at the same time.

Mark Newnham brings us Dave Davies with real panache. A multi-faceted and complex character, not always likeable but fascinating and talented, all of which Newnham manages to convey. He has both a great voice and stage presence and can certainly play those riffs.

Every cast member gives their all and they perform with real energy and verve, many taking on several roles. These are talented musicians, dancers and actors – three in one. A feat indeed. Adam Cooper’s snappy choreography is spot on and conveys the era so well, as does the range of costumes. The show is fast-paced and scene changes are cleverly and speedily carried out as the action continues.

This is a jukebox musical that really works because it is based on a true story and because the songs are considered to be autobiographical. So the songs really do tell the story and with the right chronology. In fact, it is a very engrossing tale well told.

Fans of The Kinks, of course, will love this show, but even if you are not a fan you cannot help but sing along to the many well-known tunes and toe-tap. The entire audience couldn’t help but be up on its feet at the end singing, dancing and clapping along.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Runs until 3 September 2016 | Image: Kevin Cummins

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