Sunny Afternoon: The Kinks Musical | Review
Grand Opera House, Belfast • Tuesday 02 May ’17
By Conor O’Neill
The annals of rock n roll history differ in their stories, depending on who you read and who you believe the beautiful sound of distortion was invented by a) Jimi Hendrix, or b) Dave Davies. I opt for the latter. Sunny Afternoon sees Dave Davies take a knife to his amp trying to get a nastier sound. In real life, apparently and more likely, he ripped the cone by accident; either way and who really who gives a feck, ‘You Really Got Me’ changed the world of electric guitar and ushered in everything from the Stooges, the Velvet Underground to punk, new wave and grunge. Imagine a world without a single one of them!
Belfast’s Grand Opera House is heaving. All 1040 seats filled for Sunny Afternoon. Picking up an Olivier Award for best new musical in 2015, these dedicated followers of fashion have finally hit Belfast with ridiculous passion. And what to expect? Well everything from in-family feuds to Nancy Sinatra look-a-likes with their beehives and bobs, A-line mini-skirts and boots made for dancing, too many 10 per cents to mention, very little going the Kinks’ way, and a bruising night of high octane rock n roll.
A first for me is the addition of a walk-way stage taking the main players from stage front, right into the first couple of rows. If you like in your face theatre, the GOH is the place to be. The soundtrack is that of Ray Davies, a dreamer and a man under constant pressure to write hit after hit. Ryan O’Donnells’s portrayal of the Kinks’ frontman is second to none. His understated and sensitive presence plays Ying to Mark Newman’s ferocious Yang of younger brother and completely different animal that is Dave Davies. He made my night, skulking, sulking and rip-roaringly boisterous fun and fury that gave the band the edge when the British Invasion was the only equation of mid 60s pop music and culture.
The musicianship is beyond description. All four members know every fret, note and move the rock n roll book has to offer. 14 was the highest count of cast members I saw on stage at the same time; all grooving and moving the audience of differing ages close to evangelical hysteria. Old man Da Davies is excellently played by veteran Robert Took and adds a touch of maturity and common sense his sons seem to have missed out on the genetic front. Expect and adore clean acoustics, Telecasters played through the knifed Vox valve amp, trombones, SG bass, washboard as skiffle percussion and though I’m not a fan of five minute drum solos, they’ve thrown one in for fun, and for the first time in my life I loved every bass bump and cymbal tremble Andrew Gallo as stick player had to offer. Musical director Barney Ashworth has plenty to be proud of.
You know it’s a West End hit just by the number of names on the production team; sweet suffering bananas, they not only have a wig mistress but a wig mistress deputy to boot. Choreographer Adam Copper doesn’t waste an inch of the hallowed boards as a football team plus subs shimmy, star-jump and strut their stuff for close on two hours. All the hits are here, ‘You Really Got Me’ to ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Waterloo Sunset’ all get an airing. And just when you’re nearly clapped out, the entire cast and audience are on their feet to the rousing closer that is the one and only ‘Lola’, c,c,c,c,c,cola.
Sunny Afternoon runs until Saturday, 06 May. For booking details visit www.goh.co.uk or phone the box office on 02890 241919