CREATING a musical out of popular songs and linking them with a decent story is a bit like a pub game – how do you get from Sky Takes the Soul to I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) with 16 other Proclaimers hits in between?
It’s been tried before, with varying success – Viva Forever! anyone? Sunshine on Leith is a charming and engaging musical mostly because the songs are about living in the real world and communicate real feelings and real dilemmas.
You only have to listen to the witty words of Throw the R Away or the poignant message of Heaven Right Now to understand how this can work. And let’s face it, The Proclaimers wrote a lot a great stuff and it is all here. Oh yes, they do finish with Letter from America and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) without a shoehorn in sight.
Henley Amateur Operatic and Drama Society have pulled together a cast peppered with familiar faces under Ian Head, who has taken on the roles of both director and musical director.
The ever–dependable Richard Evans plays Rab and the outstanding Eileen Pinkerchevski is his wife of 30 years, Jean. Their story of commitment and relationship challenges is the benchmark for returning soldiers Ally (Ben MacLachlan) and Davy (Greg Clarke) who have had enough adventure in war–torn Afghanistan and are seeking the quiet life in their native Scotland.
They are well partnered by Jennamarie Smith as Yvonne and Sally Rowlandson (Liz), who poignantly communicates her frustration and dreams so vital to the emotional heart of the piece.
The best part of this neat little musical is its ability to take the audience from comedy – the call centre scene stands out – to gut–wrenching sentiment and the title song Sunshine on Leith is an emotional highlight.
Other performers who really make an impact are Phil Couch and his lovely tenor voice as Young Rab, and young Guillame Gougeon, who brings great energy and a hint of future stage glory as Murray.
This is a musical with guts and a sense of humour but is grounded in the grittiness of real life, with its hopes and expectations, challenges and triumphs. It deserves a good audience for its remaining performances today (Friday) at 7.45pm and tomorrow at 2.30pm and 7pm.
Call (01491) 575698 or see www.kentontheatre.co.uk
Review by: Heather Simpkin