I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
The story of The Small Faces
Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre seems intent on taking its audiences on a journey through the history of music.
Last week we witnessed the birth of rock & roll with Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (review here) and in September there's a new musical, Son of a Preacher Man, featuring the hits of Dusty Springfield. Dusty – portrayed by Sophia Behn - crops up briefly in this week's musical offering, All or Nothing, which charts the short history of The Small Faces, the mod band that evolved into psychedelic rockers and, despite being together for just four years, influenced a host of top acts, from the Sex Pistols and the Jam to Blur and Ocean Colour Scene.
Penned by actress Carol Harrison, best known as Louise Raymond in Eastenders, All or Nothing is hugely entertaining even if you're not mad for Mod or into the sounds of psychedelia because it tells such a fascinating story.
The show opens at the end, so to speak, – the band's final concert at Alexandra Palace on New Year's Eve 1968. Frontman Steve Marriott (Samuel Pope) stops singing, unplugs his guitar and is about to do some serious damage to the drumkit when the action freezes and we are introduced to the older Marriott (Chris Simmons) who then narrates the rise and fall of The Small Faces as we watch his younger self becoming a star before imploding on stage in that infamous final gig. As well as full versions of 14 songs of The Small Faces there is a soundtrack of other top tunes of the era.
Simmons, who is recognisable from his roles in The Bill, Holby City and Casualty, tells the audience that three of The Small Faces are no longer with us - Steve Marriott died in 1991, guitarist Ronnie Lane passed away in 1997 and keyboardist Ian McLagan died of a stroke in 2014 – so we are effectively seeing the ghost of Marriott reviewing his life. As we hear of the younger Steve's increased dependence of drugs of alcohol we see the older Steve becoming drunker and more stoned until at the end he's a sad shadow of his former self.
On stage: The Small Faces as portrayed in All or Nothing
The acting is superb. Simmons is always watchable, while the younger cast members – Samuel Pope, Stanton Wright as Ronnie Lane, Josh Maddison as Ian McLagan and Stefan Edwards as drummer Kenney Jones – prove they are not only fine actors but also brilliant musicians. Tracks such as Itchycoo Park, Tin Soldiers and All or Nothing brought whoops of delight from the audience and a standing ovation at the end.
Although the band members, and Marriott in particular, are the centre of attention it would be remiss to forget the supporting cast, many of whom work hard with multiple roles and provide much of the humour. Original keyboardist Jimmy Winston is played by Joseph Peters who also does an accurate impression of manager Andrew Oldham. Less accurate is Daniel Beales' portrayal of Tony Blackburn – I presume this was intended because his rotund figure and dodgy wig got the biggest laugh of the night. Versatile Daniel also turned up as Sonny (with Katie Faye as Cher) and an impressive Stanley Unwin whose tongue-twisting turn on the album Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake must have taken some learning.
All or Nothing: The rise and fall of The Small Faces
Also impressive are Melissa Brown-Taylor's PP Arnold and Russell Floyd's Don Arden, along with dancers Daisy Darvill and Fran Dearlove who could easily help bring miniskirts back into fashion!
And a big hand to writer Carol Harrison who directed the production and played Steve Marriott's mother, Kay, as a feisty Eastender who only wanted the best for her son. Unfortunately for her, for Steve it had to be all or nothing.
All or Nothing 2017 dates:
Apr 11 - 15: Theatre Royal, Glasgow;
Apr 18 - 22: Empire Theatre, Sunderland;
May 1 - 3: Pavilion, Rhyl;
May 4 - 6: Belgrade Theatre, Coventry;
May 8 - 10: The Plaza, Stockport;
May 11 - 13: Rose Theatre, Kingston;
May 15 - 17: Grand Theatre, Blackpool;
May 18 - 20: Alhambra Theatre, Bradford;
May 25 - 27: Grand, Swansea;
May 30 - June 3: Regent Theatre, Stoke;
June 6 - 8: Theatre Royal, York;
June 9 - 10: Corn Exchange, Kings Lynn;
June 13 - 14: Hall for Cornwall, Truro;
June 15 - 17: Lighthouse, Poole;
June 19 - 21: Orchard, Dartford;
June 22 - 24: Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton;
June 26 - 28: Northcott Theatre, Exeter;
June 30 - July 2: Churchill Theatre, Bromley;
July 3 - 5: Key Theatre, Peterborough;
July 6 - 8: Marina, Lowestoft;
July 10 - 15: Theatre Royal, Brighton;
July 17 - 19: New Theatre Royal, Lincoln;
July 20 - 22: Corn Exchange, Cambridge;
July 25 - 29: Everyman, Cheltenham.