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Sunny Afternoon at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham - Review

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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The story of The Kinks - complete with their hit songs
Brothers in bands are not always a good combination. In recent times we've seen major disagreemants between the Gallaghers in Oasis and the Campbells in UB40. The tension, the arguments, sometimes the physical fights, make for great drama and lots of column inches in the newspapers. So it was with The Kinks, with elder brother Ray Davies regularly falling out with younger sibling Dave. It's a rift that only recently seems to be healing but there's no mention of that in Sunny Afternoon which concentrates on the band's early years, examining the birth and rise of The Kinks.

Sunny Afternoon, The Kinks, Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Ryan O'Donnell, Mark Newnham, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Review

It certainly is a remarkable story as sibling rivalry is matched by friction with other band members, particularly guitarist Dave Davies and drummer Mick Avory. Their well documented on-stage punch-up in Cardiff closes the first act and contributes greatly to the drama which also includes a drunk negligee-wearing Dave swinging on a chandelier, the band being banned from America and disputes over management, income and song ownership.

Sunny Afternoon, The Kinks, Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Ryan O'Donnell, Mark Newnham, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Review
Swinger: Mark Newnham as Dave Davies in Sunny Afternoon

Based on Ray Davies' memoirs, Joe Penhall's script is gritty and witty with some knowing quips about the '60s. The songs of The Kinks are used to establish a timeline first number one single, You Really Got Me, comes early on, the eponymous 1966 hit, Sunny Afternoon, and 1970's Lola are near the end but other tracks, such as Dedicated Follower of Fashion and Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy, are out of sequence, becoming part of the biographical narrative.

Sunny Afternoon, The Kinks, Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Ryan O'Donnell, Mark Newnham, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Review
Dedicated followers of fashion: The Kinks suited up in Sunny Afternoon

That's part of the beauty of this production it's not your standard jukebox musical; it's a strong story supported by some great songs and musicianship. Its West End residency won it the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Musical but it stands or falls by the quality of the cast performances and in this case they are excellent.

Ray is played by Ryan O'Donnell who has a great voice - until last year he was a member of Jethro Tull/ Ian Anderson Band. Andrew Gallo takes the role of the prickly Mick Avory, with an impressive drum solo in the second half, while bass player Pete Quaife is played by Garmon Rhys skillfully portraying the isolation he feels within the group. At the risk of adding to the inter-band (inter-cast?) rivalry, I have to say they are overshadowed by Mark Newnham as Dave 'the Rave' Davies. It has to be said, however, that it's a role to die for he gets the funniest lines, the best moves and the chance to play the roof-raising, mega-loud legendary guitar riff in You Really Got Me. By the end of the opening night show the audience was on its feet, singing along.

Sunny Afternoon, The Kinks, Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Ryan O'Donnell, Mark Newnham, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Review
Brotherly love: Ryan O'Donnell and Mark Newnham as Ray and Dave Davies

Sunny Afternoon is at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre until September 10. It then tours the UK and Ireland:

Sept 13 - 17: Edinburgh Playhouse;
Sept 20 -24: Southend Cliffs Pavilion;
Sept 27 - Oct 1: Aylesbury Waterside Theatre;
Oct 4 - 8: Sunderland Empire;
Oct 11 - 15: Glasgow King's Theatre;
Oct 18 - 22: Torquay Princess Theatre;
Oct 25 - 29: Lyceum Theatre,Sheffield;
Nov 1 - 5: New Victoria Theatre, Woking;
Nov 8 - 12: Aberdeen His Majesty's Theatre;
Nov 15 - 19: Orchard Theatre, Dartford;
Nov 29 - Dec 3: Stoke Regent Theatre;
Dec 6 - 10: Southampton Mayflower Theatre;
Dec 13 - 31: Theatre Royal, Brighton;
Jan 10 - 14: Royal & Derngate, Northampton;
Jan 17 - 21: Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre;
Jan 24 - 28: Nottingham Theatre Royal;
Jan 31 - Feb 4: Oxford New Theatre;
Feb 7 - 11: Liverpool Empire;
Feb 14 - 18: Venue Cymru, Llandudno;
Feb 21 - 25: Grand Opera House, York;
Feb 28 - Mar 4: Alhambra Theatre, Bradford;
Mar 7 - 11: Bristol Hippodrome;
Mar 21 - 25: The Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin;
Apr 4 - 8: Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury;
May 2 - 6: Grand Opera House, Belfast.
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Why? Sensational smash hit West End musical
When: Until September 10, 2016, at the Alexandra Theatre, then touring until May 6, 2017
Phone: 0844 871 3011
Where: Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, then touring
Cost: From 15 plus fees
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