The award-winning biographical musical of The Kinks brings a bit of sunshine to Bradford where LEO OWEN caught the show

MIRIAM Buether’s set is simple and embodies Ray Davies’ musical drive, comprised of wooden speakers in varying sizes/styles with a walkway jutting out and glass backing booth. As the musical opens, a band are on stage and a chandelier hangs above; the Ravens play a function crooning to disinterested onlookers. Director, Edward Hall, uses freeze frames for Ryan O’Donnell (Ray) to hijack the performance with a solo of “You Really Got Me”, hinting at the story to come.

Although the show is billed as the story of The Kinks, it focuses on their lead, Ray Davies. Scriptwriter Joe Penhall has songwriter Ray sing as he thinks, cleverly using Kinks songs to underpin key events in their success story and possibly reveal the inspiration behind some of their most celebrated tunes: “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” is sung as they try on their first stage costumes, dancing around with a dressmaker’s doll; “Sitting In My Hotel” reflects the lows of touring and “A Long Way From Home” the moment everything appeared to crumble.

Slow at times, the first half is the perfect warm up to a faultless second with unanimously strong performances. “Hello You, Hello Me” is nicely harmonised and moving to watch as the band try to stop bassist, Peter Quaife (Garmon Rhys) from quitting the band. Bittersweet duet “Too Much On My Mind” and Lisa Wright’s (Rasa) solo “On the phone I Go To Sleep” show Ray and his young wife Rasa’s yearning for one another and highlights the loneliness of touring. “Thankyou for the Days” is touchingly performed as a barbershop quartet to depict the band’s inevitable split with their original two managers.

Charting their first Top of the Pops performance, Dave’s initial euphoria of living a celebrity lifestyle, the pressures of touring, working tensions and the cracking of America, Sunny Afternoon is both funny and poignant. O’Donnell gives a phenomenal performance, showcasing lesser known Kinks’ songs, such as flirty duet “This Strange Effect” while also belting out popular classic “All Day and All of the Night”. The show’s final medley encourages the standing ovation performers get but is undoubtedly deserved.

Sunny Afternoon showed at The Alhambra 28 February-4 March: