Review - Sunny Afternoon (UK Tour)

Following a 2 year run on the West End, Olivier Award winning musical Sunny Afternoon embarked on a UK tour earlier this year. Featuring hit after hit, Sunny Afternoon is the perfect musical for anyone feeling nostalgic for the 1960s. The costumes are groovy, the set is loud and garish in a charmingly retro way, and the script is jam packed with little nods to the past, as well as more than a few ironic and self-aware winks to future events.
Photo credit - Kevin Cummins 
The story follows the rise and fall, and rise and fall, and rise and fall of British rock band The Kinks, from their beginnings in Muswell Hill in 1964 to the release of Waterloo Sunset at the end of the 1960s. They certainly packed a lot of excitement into a couple of years, as while act 1 follows the band as they conquer the UK music charts, act 2 touches upon their involvement in the British Invasion, and the infamous subsequent ban from the USA. As well as the band's antics as a whole, Sunny Afternoon also packs in lots of references to the personal lives of the band members, and offers a glimpse into the struggles and pitfalls of fame.

Actor Ryan O'Donnell takes on the complex lead role of singer, guitarist and songwriter Ray Davies, having previously understudied the role in London. He gives a charming and understated performance, and his vocals in particular sound very similar to those heard on The Kinks albums, but his performance is far from an impersonation. O'Donnell captures the subtleties of the role, and is a delight to watch onstage.

In contrast to O'Donnell's pensive performance, Mark Newnham is unabashedly raucous as Ray's younger brother Dave 'the rave' Davies. His energy and commitment is evident, and he captures the nonchalance and unconventionality of the character perfectly. 

Meanwhile Andrew Gallo is hilarious as drummer Mick Avory, and Garmon Rhys is endearing as underappreciated bassist Pete Quaife. The cast has great onstage chemistry, which really helps the dialogue to pop, a hard feat in a musical which features one hit song after another. 

There is an undeniable crackle of excitement in the air the first time the unmistakable You Really Got Me riff is played, and even more so once Dave tears up an amp and cranks up the volume in order to achieve a more raw, distorted sound. The importance of the iconic moment is not squandered, as the scene transitions quickly to the BBC's Top of the Pops show, where the song is played in full, accompanied by 3 gogo boot wearing backing dancers, and blinding concert style lighting. It's the first in a string of familiar hits featured in the musical, and later songs include All Day And All Of the Night, Waterloo Sunset and of course, Sunny Afternoon! There's also a rendition of Lola (which was released several years after the events of the musical) after the bows, as well as an encore mashup of popular hits. The Kinks songs are so ingrained in popular culture today that each song seems somewhat familiar, and in that way Sunny Afternoon will appeal to audiences regardless of their familiarity with the band itself. 

Although Sunny Afternoon is a purposefully over the top feel good musical, it's not without its fair share of drama. Tensions between the band members, as well as in the wider world, are very evident throughout the show. There are plenty of references to class divide, the hardships of the working class, and the ongoing repercussions of World War 2, all of which make Sunny Afternoon more poignant than other comparably sentimental pieces.

The Kinks is one of the most iconic British rock bands ever, and Sunny Afternoon perfectly captures their epic successes, but maintains an intimate charm too. A perfect musical for rock and pop fans, Sunny Afternoon is guaranteed to have audiences dancing in their seats by the end! 

Don't miss Sunny Afternoon on its UK tour. Find out more about the tour by visiting