Sunny Afternoon – Opera House, Manchester
Loud guitars and some of the most memorable riffs in rock history are not the only things to recommend the joyful nostalgia-fest that is ‘Sunny Afternoon’.
The musical, featuring the music of the Kinks, started its UK tour at the Opera House in Manchester after a West End run which brought it the Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 2015.
In ‘Sunny Afternoon’ what you don’t get is a tribute act playing hits wrapped around a paper-thin narrative. What you do get is a heart-warming tale of family, sibling rivalry, rock and roll excess, and a tragi-comic struggle with managers, publishers, lawyers, and heavies of all kinds, just to get the music heard and the band paid.
As you’d expect, there is an accomplished live band – with a passing resemblance to real-life members of the Kinks – who rock out hits like ‘You Really Got Me,’ ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and ‘Lola’ to delight the audience.
This account of the 60’s rise to fame of the Kinks was penned by none other than Ray Davies himself, the songwriting genius of the band.
In this semi-fictionalised story, Ray Davies and his brother Dave are regularly at loggerheads, band members feud and the touring and hell-raising take their toll.
Poignant moments came as Ray (Ryan O’Donnell) and stay-at-home wife Rasa (Lisa Wright) sing songs about the distance between them. Lisa Wright sings particularly sweetly in ‘I Go to Sleep.’
British actress and singer Lisa, has recently been making a mark on the US Country music scene with the Nashville Songwriters Association recognising her as ‘one to watch.’
‘Sunny Afternoon’ is so well-written and well-delivered that, instead of wondering when the next song was coming, I found myself savouring the acting and characterisation.
Among the many comic delights of the musical were the performances of the dilettante ‘Tory’ managers (played by Tomm Coles and Joseph Richardson). The pair find themselves out of their depth managing the band but enjoy the ride with the rebellious socialist firebrands from Muswell Hill in London. Michael Warburton played music publisher Eddie Kassner with warmth and gravitas, Richard Hurst was charismatic as Larry Page, and Ray Davies’s devoted mother and father, played by Deryn Edwards and Robert Took, brought a tear to the eye.
With enough hits to satisfy fans, played with gusto, and a storyline too, it’s no wonder it took around three hours to pack this entertainment in.
At the end of the show we were serenaded by the band with a final blast of Kinks magic and a denouement of mini-skirts, go-go dancing, and feel good energy. And with a standing ovation and the brilliant cast basking in the warmth at Manchester Opera House, the maestro himself, Ray Davies, was there to take a bow.
The unforgettable music of the Kinks – probably the musical treasure trove most calling out for its own musical – has a worthy showcase in ‘Sunny Afternoon’.
‘Sunny Afternoon’ is on national tour. For further details go to the following website: atgtickets.com/shows/sunny-afternoon.