Meet Niamh Bracken

Another month is coming to its end and it’s time for our Cast Member of the Month interview. As with Harriet Bunton, Chris Brandon and Tom Whitelock, we chose wisely once again: our Gwen/sexy waitress/British fan/American fan Niamh Bracken has been on stage most of the time, and it’s been a great pleasure watching her. I particularly enjoy catching her finale shenanigans with Chris Brandon and Gabriel Vick towards the very end: there’s something different every time and it’s bound to be fun.

West End Live

Alice Cardy, Harriet Bunton, Niamh Bracken at West End Live 2016
Photo credit: Ksenia Nemchinova

June means West End Live, and Niamh got to perform, along with the boys and Harriet and Alice, in front of the huge crowd in Trafalgar Square early in the afternoon on the 18th June. It was also good to see the cast supporting Pride in London once again on the 25th June.

Pride

Photo credit: Niamh Bracken

While I was in London, I was appointed to interrogate Niamh, so I caught up with her after one of the shows and asked her a few questions…

What is your favourite Kinks song?

Waterloo Sunset is a definite favourite, she also named Where Have All the Good Times Gone as This Time Tomorrow as those in Top 3.

If you could play any other character, who would that be, both male and female?

Naimh loves her track most of the girls’ as she believes they’re all very well cast. As for the boys, she’d love to have a go at playing Dave, she thinks that he’s the best character. She’d also like to play Larry because it’s so much fun.

What’s your favourite outfit and is there anyone else’s you’d love to wear?

Of her costumes she likes the British fan outfit, of other girls’ it’s Lia’s sister’s outfit and Alice’s finale catsuit.

Niamh

Niamh Bracken
Photo credit: Sunny Afternoon Fans

As always, we’re grateful to Niamh for her time chatting to us and answering our questions, it’s great to have her as part of the show. We already know who’s going to take over from her in July, so keep an eye on @SunnyAftFans, all will be revealed soon…

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Cast Member of the Month: Chris Brandon

Larry&Eddie

Jason Baughan & Chris Brandon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

One of the advantages of seeing Sunny Afternoon more than once (or even more than twice) is that you get to notice other characters and not just the Kinks and you get to really appreciate them. When we were deciding at the @SunnyAftFans HQ who was going to be our next cast member of the month, it didn’t take us long to agree that it should be our very own Larry Page, Chris Brandon.

His previous theatre credits are quite impressive and extensive, including some Shakespeare (Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe and Oliver in Sam West’s production of As You Like It at the Sheffield Crucible to name but a few), as well as George in the national tour of Three Men in a Boat and Tom in The Great Gatsby at the Wilton Music Hall among many others. He’s also appeared on the small screen in Soldier Soldier, Heat of the Sun, M.I. High and Endeavour (and the latter is where I know him from), as well as in a few shorts.

Chris&Niamh

Chris Brandon and Niamh Bracken
Photo Credit: Charlie Tighe

Chris took over from Vinny Leigh in October and almost immediately became one of the audiences’ favourites. We’ve all agreed by now that he’s a true comedy genius and I’ve lost count of how many times I was giggling like a loon, especially in the first half: from the ball at the very beginning of the show and his interaction with Gabriel Vick in ‘You Still Want Me’, to the most hilarious and yet business-like Larry Page possible, to Rasa’s angry Dad in the wedding scene that leaves the audience in stitches every time – you know you’re in for a treat and a good time if you decide to pay attention to Chris’s antics. As far as I know, the real Larry’s friends/relatives have seen the show and commented on his performance saying he’s just like Larry was back in the day – best seal of approvement possible when you’re playing a real-life character.

Chris easily made Sunny Afternoon his home and it’s a great pleasure to watch him because it does look like he’s enjoying himself immensely when he’s on stage. I always look forward to seeing him in the show and looking out for whatever silly little things he may come up with next.

Lia&Chris

Understudy of the Month Lia Given & Cast Member of the Month Chris Brandon (plus terrified cameo from Dominic Tighe)
Photo credit: Charlie Tighe

We hope to learn more about Chris over the course of the next few weeks and we’re gearing up to ask him some questions while he’s still talking to us, so if there’s anything you’d like to know, contact us on Twitter or Facebook or comment here, we’ll put your questions to Chris later in the month and share his answers towards the end of it!

Sunny Afternoon Team B appreciation blog

I should’ve done it a long time ago, but somehow never quite got round to writing about the most talented and hard-working understudies I’ve ever seen. After talking about it for a bit, we named this week Sunny Afternoon understudy week, so it seems I have no choice but to say a few words. It’s a bit of a hefty read, but bear with me.

Of course, if you only get a chance to see a show once and you’re there because of a particular actor, it may be disappointing to find out that he’s off sick and someone else is stepping up. While I agree with this, I can assure you that you never know, you may like this unexpected change a lot – happened to me and lots of my theatre-crazy friends on a number of occasions.

500th show

Team B takeover during the 500th West End show on 6th January, 2016

During Sunny Afternoon’s West End run quite a few incredibly talented individuals have been covering various parts. Without them, West End would most likely collapsd, and it makes me sad when people dismiss understudies as ‘not good enough’. Try learning more than one part: dialogue, choreography, key changes – try playing different instruments and being ready to step up sometimes at the last minute and fill in for a sick cast member, especially when you’ve spent your afternoon rehearsing another part. So, yeah, I admire those people and I’m especially in owe when it comes to Sunny Afternoon and its understudies – both previous and current – because they have proven a number of times that they’re up to the task at hand.

I’m still gutted that I never got to see Robbie Durham, Verity Quade and Kirsty Mather while they were with the show, especially after hearing how great they were in their respective roles. However, during the first six months in the West End, I managed to catch Luke Baker (understudy Ray), Stephen Pallister (then understudy Mr Davies/Klein/Kassner/Piven) and Nick Sayce (then understudy Mick/Robert/Grenville) a few times. I must admit, it took me a bit of time to get used to Luke’s angrier Ray, but thirty minutes into my first show with him (New Year’s Eve!) I stopped worrying. I got to see him five times at the beginning of his almost 4-week run and he got better every time I was there.

Silas Wyatt-Barke was the only cover I hadn’t had a chance to see before the final week of the original cast and, knowing it was supposed to be the week with no holidays, I was upset thinking I’d never see him as Wace after hearing rave reviews from my fellow addicts. Fortunately for me, he happened to be on, just once, but it was enough for me to see how great he was. I enjoyed it immensely and only wish I’d had more than once opportunity to see Silas, his ‘I know a man who knows a man’ will stay with me for a long time.

I’ve seen Nick Sayce a few times and in three of his current possible guises: Mick, Wace and Collins, – he added Ray to this mix, but living in another country has its disadvantages, so I missed his short run as one of the Davies brothers when he was on last time. I’m struggling to remember when I last saw him as Wace, must be last spring at some point, Collins was the day before the Oliviers, and Mick last winter/spring and just recently when I decided to do my first double with the new cast, as it was their 500th West End performance that night. My most favourite is probably Mick, he’s much calmer than you’d expect (which is probably very close to the real Mick!), and that makes his outburst in the Cardiff scene even more sudden and shocking.

I’d seen Stephen Pallister in 3 of his possible roles during the first Sunny year at the Harold Pinter Theatre, first one was Kassner, then Mr Davies/Klein and then Larry Page. I did enjoy all of those, but Mr Davies was my favourite and I loved his interaction with the boys and Liz Hill, so, naturally, I was thrilled for him when he was promoted after cast change and is now playing Mr Davies on a daily basis.

In April with cast change some undeniably astonishing people joined the show. My excitement was caused by Ryan O’Donnell coming as understudy Ray and Dave. I’d seen Ryan in Quadrophenia ages ago, so I knew what to expect of him, and I think I wasn’t even trying to hide how thrilled I was to hear the news. I was sure he’d be a great Ray, but for some reason couldn’t picture him as Dave. I’m glad I was wrong. Ryan very nearly went on the day before the Oliviers when John twisted his wrist, but eventually he was just providing guitar accompaniment in the pit. I finally got to see him as Ray in June and I was not disappointed. He’d had some practice already, so I was really enjoying another new for me take on the part. Ryan has one of the most captivating voices I’ve ever heard and I can listen to him singing Set Me Free, This Is Where I Belong, Sitting in My Hotel or Waterloo Sunset forever. He’s now become incredibly confident and after being promoted to alternate Ray with two shows a week to play he gets better and better every time I see him. July brought four ‘Dave’ shows – I’d already heard he was great, but still needed to see it with my own eyes. He’s a more grown-up and mature Dave, the one who knows what he wants, not just spends all his time messing about, and he is just incredible. And the voice, have I mentioned the voice? Till the End of the Day was a definite highlight, as well as his singing in A Long Way from Home. I haven’t seen Ryan as Dave for over six months now and I’m beginning to think of bribing Olly and Robbie to change that.

ryan

With Ryan O’Donnell after seeing him as Ray for the first time – I even went curly for the occasion!

Vicki Manser has to be one of my most favourite people ever. She’s talented, she has a wonderful voice, she plays all sorts of instruments, can tap dance and just a lovely human being. She’s also cover for all the Sunny girls, so she’s also probably the youngest mother of teenaged boys I’ve seen. I saw Vicki as Rasa for the first time on my birthday, and I was amazed by how good and confident she was. She’s a perfect Rasa with her childlike mannerisms and Bradford accent. I keep missing her by mere days every time, so we just need to do something about it, but whenever I see that she’s on as Rasa, I know we’re in for a treat. One of the highlights of the first Sunny year in the West End, was the day I saw Vicki as Peggy. She doesn’t get to do much, but she was just the best in Set Me Free, and I had the most serious dress envy ever.

Lovely Lia Given is a true asset to the show, understudy Peggy/Joyce/Gwen, she’s very confident no matter what part she has to play. She’s been on a lot and every time you can be sure the part’s in safe hands. I particularly enjoy her stint as a waitress and recently couldn’t help but complimenting her on the wedding crasher. At some point a few months ago, she was on for Peggy one day and then for Gwen the next day. Not confusing at all, is it?

I only got to see Robert Took as Mr Davies/Klein recently, he’d had some time to settle into the part earlier on, so looks and sounds very confident and clearly enjoys himself. Oh, and I love his enthusiastic Klein before Sunny Afternoon and in the finale!

One of the Sunny superheroes is the amazing Robbie White. He understudies the four Kinks and so far has had a chance to play them all bar Mick (we’re keeping our fingers crossed hoping it’ll happen one day!). I’ve seen him as Pete and Dave and absolutely loved him. His Pete is naïve albeit hopeful, excited to starting this rock’n’roll adventure, but soon beginning to wonder if it’s right for him, because ‘it’s not exactly steady’. Robbie is a huge pleasure to watch, he’s just so natural and happy to be on stage, you can’t help but spend a lot of time looking at him. His Pete is truly heartbreaking in Rock’n’Roll Fantasy and makes me cry every time. His Dave is something completely different altogether. While those sitting at the front may fear for their lives sometimes, you know you’re in for a fab time when you see his name in the notice they put up in the foyer. I made a sound I didn’t know I was capable of last time it happened. He’s energy is infectious, his Dave is an annoying little git at first, turning into an angry, disappointed and disillusioned man from a reckless teenager. A Long Way from Home is always emotional as it as, but with Robbie on for Dave it gets a new edge. Oh, and just watch him having the time of his life in the finale! When he has some spare time, Robbie also writes his own – very good – songs, so you really begin to wonder if this man’s talens have their limits.

Kay Milbourne is yet another lovely lady, she understudies Mrs Davies/Marsha and is just perfect for the part. Her Mrs Davies is tough and strong, as a mother of six girls and two boys should be, but caring and tender at the same time. Kay’s comic timing as Marsha is incredible, I remember watching her for the first time and thinking how good she is. My only wish is too see her more often, but, as in Vicki’s case, I keep missing her by mere days sometimes. Fingers crossed I’ll get to see Kay more often this year, because she’s a pleasure to watch.

Lloyd Gorman understudies Mr Davies/Klein/Kassner/Page/Piven and he’s yet another Team B superman. His Larry Page is the best, I had a lot of fun seeing the show when he was playing on the band’s managers (not that I hate it otherwise, you know). He looks very tough and solid without being threatening. And I recently got to see Lloyd as Piven, which I enjoyed a lot, especially his stint as a tailor in the first half.

Last but not least is Alex Tosh. He joined the show in October after cast change and he’s understudy Wace/Collins/Pete/Mick. I’ve only seen him as Wace so far, he had quite and extensive run while Gabriel was on holiday, so managed to get settled and was very good and confident. I especially enjoyed a bit of a change from the usual trombone to saxophone in a number of scenes – unusual as it may be for those who know the show backwards, it added a bit of a change to the sound. Alex is incredibly good throughout, but his singing in Days is a definite stand-out for me. I was just struck by his voice’s strength and clarity in that first line.

I love our Team B a lot and I’m always happy to see them on stage: they’re incredibly talented actors and musicians, their hard work pays off and they enjoy themselves a lot when they get a chance to do what they’re really good at. Of course, I’m not saying that I don’t like our main cast, but there’s a special place in my heart for this lovely bunch of people and I hope I’ll get to see them as often as possible this year.

 

 

I won’t forget a single day, believe me…

When you know for months that something’s going to happen on a certain date, you’d think you may be prepared by then and get ready to face it all. It’s probably true, although sometimes it doesn’t go the way you think it will.

full company

Full company of Sunny Afternoon before the final show.

Photo credit: @KinksMusical

Last Saturday marked the final performance of the original Sunny Afternoon cast. I don’t think I have quite managed to process it yet, but it’s true. I saw them for the first time in May 2014, two days after their Hampstead press night and halfway through the initial run of the show. Seventeen months and 60 shows later, I was there to see the end of the first beginning, as Ed Hall called it. In fact, I spent last week at the Harold Pinter theatre, watching every single show, and I witnessed eight completely different performances. Knowing about it for a while, I decided to spend that week in my favourite seat (I’ve gone through my tickets now: I’ve had the same seat 33 times out of 57 at the Pinter and over 10 times sat somewhere very close to that one – not fussy at all) and I think it was only fair.

with John

Photo credit: Debbie Gilpin

Monday felt a bit odd, calm before the storm, I suppose. I’m glad I finally got to see Silas as Wace that night. I remember being strangely happy on Tuesday, I guess it had a lot to do with seeing some of the new cast before the show (they’d moved into the theatre for their tech week) and bumping into Joe Penhall, he was later excitedly introducing us to his friends at the pub. On Wednesday, it was great to see Ryan one more time with – I keep correcting myself because I start writing the word ‘current’ and then remember they’re not there anymore – with the original cast. I’m going to miss his and George’s duets. And his and John’s while we’re at it. Wednesday evening was when it properly hit me for the first time, but, thanks to incomparable Philip Bird and his skills of improvisation, I had a lot of fun in the second half and absolutely had to thank him afterwards. It didn’t stop me from getting emotional towards the end though. It was lovely to see former understudies, Luke Baker and Robbie Durham, in the audience in the afternoon and briefly catch up with Ashley Campbell in the evening. The whole week had a feeling of a reunion with friends, to be honest. Thursday will remain one of the happiest days ever for a very long time to come. Debbie, Jess, Sandie and yours truly had spent a few months preparing some leaving gifts for the cast and we decided to give them away before the last day, predicting stage door madness on the 3rd. It couldn’t have gone better, for all of us. And the show that day… According to Philip Bird, the last Thursday of the run is almost all the time one of the best, and it was definitely true in this case. I thought it was just me being stupidly happy and projecting my mood on everyone and everything around me, but the cast and fans alike confirmed afterwards that it was a very special night for all involved indeed. It almost felt like seeing the show for the first time, as if it was something new, undiscovered and, therefore, incredibly exciting. Things like that don’t happen too often, so I’m pleased I got to be there. Friday was yet another great show, and then there was Saturday.

Afternooners

Photo credit: Debbie Gilpin (camera)/Helen Gardner (legwork)

I woke up with tears in my eyes, but managed to pull myself together and decided to have as much fun as possible, despite knowing that a very special chapter of my life was about to end. We had no idea if we’d get to catch any of the cast after the shows that day, so spent the time before the matinée hanging around the theatre and wishing the arriving cast all the best for the day. It was lovely to see Amy Ross, she came to drop off some gifts on her way to the Adelphi. It was definitely a fun show, filled with laughter and almost with no tears, almost. We got to see most of the cast after the show, say our goodbyes-for-now just in case, because I, for one, wasn’t going to be at stage door in the evening, knowing there would be too many people and too little time (spoiler alert: I did go, creature of a habit).

Amy

With Debbie and Amy

Photo credit: Sandie Smith

Usually, when I take my Sunny seat, I know that everything will be alright and the world is a happy place. I couldn’t even look up when the boys appeared on the stage, and then Dom’s “for one last time, I am Robert ‘Bobby’ Wace and we are the Ravens” pretty much set me off. I was desperately trying to avoid thinking “this is the last time they’re doing this”, but it didn’t stop me from sobbing my way through the first ten minutes of the show. Then there was that piano version of This Time Tomorrow, and then This Strange Effect, and then This Is Where I Belong… But I knew that I had a second half to somehow go through. Everyone I know had said that it’d be very emotional from Days onwards, but I knew that my world was going to end much earlier. I was talking to Danny Horn the day before and he remarked that, probably, the second half starting with Sitting in My Hotel was going to be difficult to go through. You’ve no idea how true it was in my case. It’s still a bit of a blur, but after that one I only stopped crying for a bit during Sunny Afternoon, thanks again to Philip Bird for making me laugh at John’s expense. Final part of the show is about a lot of people saying goodbye, and it was especially heartbreaking last Saturday. Rock’n’Roll Fantasy with its “for all we know, we might still have a way to go”, Days with a group hug from Adam, Dom, George, Tam and John at the end, A Long Way from Home with the boys clinging to each other, Waterloo Sunset with its magical effect on everybody… Everyone was on their feet before the lights went down. Saturday’s audience was the most appreciative I’ve ever seen in a theatre, and I do see a lot of productions (well, maybe not this year). The final finale was rocking as ever, it was lovely to see Silas (in a terrible wig!) having his final bop, and then the understudies and Amy appeared on the stage to hand over the presents, and then Ed Hall said some wonderfully kind words about the cast leaving the show. He managed to reduce everyone on and off that stage to tears, but it was a beautiful moment and I realised once again how much I love that bunch of incredibly talented people and most genuine human beings and how proud I am of how far they’ve come since the first workshop a few years ago, all the way through the 6-week Hampstead run to the West End, winning 4 Olivier Awards and just being the best at what they’re doing.

tickets

Can you guess my favourite seat? 😉

It did hit me harder than I could’ve imagined, I know I’m going to see some of the people that have become very dear to me very soon and I’m grateful for the most amazing times I’ve had watching them over and over again. I’m going to miss them terribly and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours. The best thing is that the show lives on, the new boys and girls have already started their Sunny journey and I can’t wait to see them, especially having met some of them last week and hearing great things after their first show. It’s going to be different, but there’s no way I’m going to compare them to the original cast, it’s a new chapter in the show’s life and I’m going to start exploring it soon. Here’s to many more happy and Sunny years!

“It’s not about the words, it’s about the atmosphere. It’s all about the atmosphere. I wanna see it; I wanna feel it. The way things are, really. A feeling of home, London, us. Lost and found – alone, but together. It’s all about us.”

Waterloo Sunset’s fine (c)

One question from an old friend who happens to share my love for the Kinks got me thinking and writing this eventually: I know you don’t like covers, so why do you like Sunny Afternoon’s versions of some of the songs so much?

Now, if you know me, you’ll know that I’m indeed very careful when it comes to cover versions. It’s not that I don’t accept them, I’m usually the first to admit that I like some of them more than the originals, but when my most favourite band’s back catalogue is concerned it’s a different story altogether. I spoke about Sunny Afternoon and why I love this show so much a few months ago here. Nothing’s changed really, it’s still my most favourite show, it just means even more to me now.

When I went to see it for the first time, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to accept certain songs performed by someone other than Ray, so those who know me but haven’t seen the show can’t help but being surprised that I sometimes say that I like the show’s versions more than I like the originals. It’s not that they’re better, no, it’s just that they’re different and, in a way, reflect my mood better. Every time I see Sunny Afternoon, I’m reminded of the reasons why I became a Kinks fan in the first place.

Thanks to this show, I was able to look at some of the classics with different eyes and got to know them from a slightly different angle. Confession: I never really liked You Really Got Me. I mean, it’s a great song, it hits all the right chords, but it’s not among my favourites. A few days ago, I was waiting for a bus and caught myself tapping my foot enthusiastically to the rhythm of the musical’s version. I must admit it: it’s one of my favourite tracks from the cast recording now. Same goes for Set Me Free, although the show just reminded me of how great it is. And don’t get me started on how many times I caught myself dancing to Denmark Street in public, it’s too hard to resist.

Then we have some tracks that I thought I would never ever be able to enjoy more than the original versions. I love them to bits, those are the songs that defy certain periods of my life and I’m very protective of them. And yet, and yet… I may get emotional when listening to the Kinks’ versions of Too Much on My Mind, A Long Way from Home, Sitting in My Hotel and Waterloo Sunset, but I only ever shed a tear a two when I heard Ray singing A Long Way from Home for the first time. I didn’t expect it, and it was an acoustic version, so it’s easy to explain. But then we have Sunny Afternoon and a couple of Olivier winning actors that manage to break my heart every time I see the show. I could go on forever about A Long Way from Home and John Dagleish and George Maguire in that particular scene. Or I could write a book about Sitting in My Hotel. Ray’s version is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, it’s of a very deep personal meaning to me, so I’m forever grateful for the treatment it gets from John. This performance alone was enough to convince me last year that he should get a certain theatre award. John Dagleish by Kevin CumminsJohn Dagleish, photo credit: Kevin Cummins

And then there’s Waterloo Sunset. I could say it’s my most favourite song ever, but that would be cheating, because it’s too simple. It never fails to help me make peace with the world when nothing goes right, it brightens up everything and it’s very soothing. There’s a truly wonderful scene in the show that leads up to Waterloo Sunset, and I cry buckets every time (for some reason, it’s been especially bad recently). But “if you’re not crying, you’re probably deaf” and I’ve been asked to stop saying sorry for that. Recently, John’s been nominated for his performance of Waterloo Sunset, and the voting in the West End Frame Awards is still open. To get some idea of what it sounds like, you can watch some of the cast on the Andrew Marr Show here, and then vote for John here until Wednesday, 27th May. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know how good he is. If you haven’t, you’ll have to take my word for it, but you can definitely trust me. If I’m saying that it’s a truly wonderful version of one of the most important songs in my life, it must mean something.

This strange effect: Sunny Afternoon, more than just a musical

NB: Despite being more or less fluent, I’m not a native speaker, so bear with me and my English, I’m doing my best.

How many times do you see a theatre show? Once? Twice? Something that you really like? Three or four times, maybe? It’s when you get to the double digits you may start worrying that something’s wrong with your life. Or, perhaps, it just proves that the show is simply brilliant.

I’ve never been too keen on musicals – I don’t mind them and I’ve seen a few but, and perhaps it has something to do with my parents trying to introduce me to some light opera when I was five or six, I tend to stay away and stick to something different. I’ve been a Kinks fan ever since I was 12. They’re not just one of the bands that I like, they’re one of the most important, integral parts of my life. That’s why, when my most favourite off West End Theatre announced that Sunny Afternoon would be their first ever musical, I thought I should give it a go. Ray Davies was involved, so, of course, I had to see the show at least once. I’m not going to lie, I was rather skeptical, I didn’t think I’d like it very much, that I’d be OK with anyone playing Ray, with some other people singing the songs I’d been listening and loving for years. But I couldn’t just dismiss it, could I? And then my friends went to see the show and they loved it, and, just in case, I booked yet another ticket. Just in case. It’s a musical, yes, but it’s about my most favourite band so why not give it a try? Here I am, seven months and fourteen visits to both Hampstead and West End later, waiting to see the show again and again.

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to see it for the first time back in May. I’d heard it was good, I’d read most of the reviews but you can never be too careful. However, I was hooked from the very first second. I’m a fan, I know the history of the band, so all the names, all the references were more than familiar. And the songs… Where do I even start? I’m over the moon because, apart from the obvious big hits that many will know and want to hear, I get to hear some of my most favourite and, perhaps, lesser known songs cleverly incorporated into the narrative and sung by the multi-talented cast. I can go on about them forever, because no matter how many times I’ve seen the show, I’m amazed by how good they all are. Every single member of the cast deserves a mention for being excellent actors, singers, musicians, dancers – you name it – and just some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met.

My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to accept the portrayal of Ray Davies. I’m so glad I was wrong, I could see how unfair I’d been the minute the show started. It’s difficult to find any sufficient words in any of the languages I know to give proper justice to John Dagleish and his performance. I can’t express it properly, but there’s one thing I’m certain of – John’s singing of Sitting in My Hotel is one of the best things that’s happened to me this year. This song is of a very personal and deep value to me and I didn’t think anyone’s version would ever make me feel the way the original does. Well, I was wrong. Again. It’s fair to say that it was ‘it’ for me, that was when it dawned on me that I wouldn’t just get away with seeing it twice. I knew I’d be back for more.

George Maguire is absolutely astonishing as Dave Davies, he clearly has a rock star vibe and yet he can be heart-breaking in certain scenes. No wonder that everyone praises his performance, and he more than deserves it. Just see the show once, and you’ll get to witness for yourselves that George clearly enjoys himself and the audience loves him to bits. One of the greatest things about the Kinks is the Davies brothers’ vocal harmonies, and when you see Sunny Afternoon the magic is there! I can listen to Just Can’t Go to Sleep and This Is Where I Belong sung by John and George on the loop, but what really breaks my heart in a good way is, of course, A Long Way from Home. It’s one of my most favourite songs ever, I love the original to bits and every time I see the show, I sit there not even trying to hide the tears, because it’s wonderful, because it’s heart-wrenching, because it’s something I rarely get to witness and feel when I see a theatre show. And I’ll forever be grateful for this.

Seeing the cast photos for the first time, I thought: “What? Pete Quaife is going to be played by a left-handed actor?” I decided not to dwell on it and was right, because you don’t really notice it while watching Ned Derrington’s wonderful and moving performance. I only ever registered he was left-handed when I was watching the show for the first time towards the end of the second half, when your eyes are on him and his walking bass-line, because it doesn’t really matter. Ned’s Pete is an understated tribute to the original, who’s, sadly, no longer with us but who’s always in our hearts and thoughts. There’re funny bits, there’re sad bits and then there’s Rock’n’Roll Fantasy. I remember going home after my first trip to see the show and crying in the middle of the street because the song started playing in my ears, and I just couldn’t help myself. Once you’ve seen it in the show, it’ll never be the same.

Adam Sopp’s Mick Avory is a true gem: he’s good, he’s snarky, his drum-solo in the second half is something to behold. The story’s focus is on Ray and Dave, and that’s, of course, understandable but it doesn’t mean that other band members are left out. Some fans take them for granted but, and that’s especially true in Mick’s case, those in the background can be an integral part of the band, and Adam’s doing great at being one of the fundamental stones in the Kinks’ history. I mean, who would put up for years with the Davies brothers’ ups and downs? Well, we all know what happened in Cardiff, I even spoke to some people who were at that gig, when Mick tried killing Dave, but I’m glad his attempt wasn’t successful. The real Mick Avory saw the show back at Hampstead and he loved it. What’s not to love?

Lillie Flynn with her amazing voice is a wonderful Rasa, Ray’s first wife. She’s funny, she’s witty and she really can sing! Normally, I say I don’t like girls singing Kinks songs but Lillie’s version of I Go to Sleep and her contribution to This Strange Effect are real assets and she deserves all the praise she can get.

Philip Bird and Elizabeth Hill are wonderful as Mr and Mrs Davies and the former as Allen Klein. Yet again, they’re great actors, they sing, they dance, and Philip plays bass. You should go and see the show, if just for the sake of the whole Davies household singing Dead End Street, which, I think, is absolutely timeless. Countless band’s managers are brilliantly portrayed by Dominic Tighe (Robert Wace), Tam Williams (Grenville Collins), Vince Leigh (Larry Page) and Ben Caplan (Eddie Kassner). We even get to witness Robert’s attempt at being a front-man. Well, we know he’s rubbish at it, of course, and has to give it up and become one of the band’s first managers together with Grenville. We know how it all ends, there’s Larry Page and Eddie Kassner, two men far better at what they’re supposed to do, two clever businessmen taking their ten per cent each. I never thought Larry Page could be so likeable but I don’t mean it as a bad thing! Apparently, he was really fun to be around back in the day.

And of course, I can’t just leave it there without mentioning Ashley Campbell and three of the most beautiful girls I’ve seen: Carly Anderson, Amy Ross and Emily Goodenough – they all play multiple parts, they, again, sing and they dance, and just seem to be having the time of their lives working on this show. I do envy them, I do, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I’ve seen Sunny Afternoon fourteen times and have at least six more booked, but I doubt I’ll stop there. The fact that I live in another country doesn’t really stop me, because I spend quite a lot of time in London whenever I can get time off work or when I have to be there for work. One of the main reasons why I keep coming back is the music, of course, and the feeling I got when I first saw it: this musical reminded me why I’d become a Kinks fan all those year ago, why I started listening to everything I could find and devouring any information I could acquire. The most wonderful thing about the songs is that they haven’t been changed (OK, one line in one of the songs but I’m not telling you) and yet they fit in so naturally. That’s because, in a way, Ray Davies has been writing the soundtrack for many years now. And every time I take my seat to see Sunny Afternoon again, I’m reminded how much I love the Kinks, how great they are and how good it is to have a West End show that thrills everyone. I’ve brought quite a number of friends to see it, most of them hadn’t really listened to the Kinks or known anything about them before they saw the show, now they’re becoming more and more interested in the band’s history and their music, and I’m happy to be there to help.

So, if you haven’t seen it yet, then what are you waiting for? Get down to the Harold Pinter Theatre and enjoy the show. Or, if you have seen it, why not head to the What’s on Stage Awards web-site and cast your vote for the show itself (Best New Musical) and George Maguire (Best Supporting Actor in a Musical)? Just do it, you know you want to!