IF Ray Davies was the powerhouse behind the success of The Kinks, similarly Ryan O’Donnell is the driving force that lifts Sunny Afternoon above your average touring juke-box musical.
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The Playhouse, Greenside Place
Rocking the Playhouse all week, the musical based on the music of The Kinks follows a well tested formula to tell the story of the socialist brothers from Muswell Hill, Ray and Dave Davies, and their working class band mates Mick Avory and Pete Quaife.
Like Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and Jersey Boys before, it’s a tale of dreams and aspirations, complex contracts, volatile relationships and, ultimately, success in the face of adversity.
For those unfamiliar with the band; formed by the brothers in 1963 as The Ravens, they didn’t become The Kinks until the following year.
Emerging from the British Beat Movement, they went on to become one of the most influential rock groups of their generation.
Indeed the influence of their classic hits, songs like You Really Got Me, Lola, Waterloo Sunset and Dedicated Follower of Fashion, remains to this day.
All are present and correct in Sunny Afternoon, however, despite a standing ovation after the obligatory final medley, this over-long production takes time to warm up.
A clichéd and, at times, laboured script ensures a slow burn - there are moments in Act One when it feels it might just last all day and all of the night.
The songs should be the stars but many sound ordinary, sanitised. Ironically, the rawness so close to the Davies’ siblings hearts is absent.
Nonetheless, each hit is met with a ripple of recognition although it takes until a blistering rendition of the title track to really hit its stride.
A spectacular a capella version of Thank You For The Days follows and by the time the strains of Waterloo Sunset drift from the stage the party is in full swing.
As Ray, O’Donnell leads from the front. Driven, charming, naive, despondent, angry, he captures the turmoil at the heart of his character with subtle shifts.
As cross-dressing, wild-man Dave Davies, Mark Kewnham offers a crowd-pleasing performance, high on farce and low on truth.
Garmon Rhys and Andrew Gallo bring some nice moments to the roles of band members Pete Quaife and Mick Avory - the later’s energetic drum solo garnering a well deserved roar of approval.
A fine ensemble cast gel well to bring a host of other characters to life. Lisa Wright is particularly touching as Rasa, Ray’s wife, while Robert Took enjoys a scene-stealing turn as hard-talking music publisher Allen Klein.
The Kinks last played the Playhouse in 1984, and what the fans there on that occasion might make of Sunny Afternoon, however, is a difficult call.
Run ends Saturday