Previewed 4 October 2014, Opened 28 October 2014, Closed 29 October 2016 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London
The new stage musical Sunny Afternoon in London based on the music of Ray Davies and The Kinks.
Exploring the rise to stardom of Ray Davies and the Kinks, Sunny Afternoon is set against the back-drop of a Britain caught mid-swing between the conservative 50s and riotous 60s, showing both the euphoric highs and agonising lows of one of Britain's most iconic bands and the irresistible music that influenced generations.
Written by Joe Penhall with music and lyrics by Ray Davies, this production is directed by Edward Hall with choreography by Adam Cooper and designs by Miriam Buether. This production comes into London's West End following a critically acclaimed run at the Hampstead Theatre in North London in 2014. The original West End cast featured John Dagleish as 'Ray Davies' and George Maguire as 'Dave Davies' who both reprised their roles from the Hampstead Theatre. Joe Penhall's West End credits include the play Blue/Orange at the Duchess Theatre in 2001.
When this production transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End in October 2014, Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail thought that "60s pop group the Kinks were as good as, if not better than, the Rolling Stones - and now a blaster of a show about them has reached the West end. It's a guitar-riffing, amp-smashing drum-whacker of a night." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard said that "it's hard to praise sufficiently the phenomenal lead performance given by John Dagleish as Ray. He sings and plays guitar with both attack and élan, and convinces totally as a young man confused and underwhelmed by the arrival of fame. George Maguire is also in top-notch form as his wild-card, live-wire, trouble-making younger sibling Dave." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times commented that the "story hits pretty much all the rock-narrative archetypes, concentrating on 'Will success spoil these down-to-earth boys?' and 'What price integrity or even sanity?' Every step feels thoroughly familiar. And still it works fantastically well."
When this production originally opened at the Hampstead Theatre Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times praised this "exhilarating, hugely enjoyable new musical" that "is great fun and delivered with unashamed glee in Edward Hall's exuberant production," adding that "it is, deliberately, the music that is the star of this joyous, touching show." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph hailed "this wonderful new show... director Edward Hall marvellously nails the humour and the pathos of the piece, and there's a neat design by Miriam Buether featuring scores of speaker cabinets." In the Times Dominic Maxwell commented that "if you're a fan of the Kinks, this catalogue musical depicting the north London band's wobbly rise to the top is the theatrical event of the year. If you're not a fan of the Kinks, Sunny Afternoon will make you one... This is a great, very British musical about a great, very British band." Lyn Gardner in the Guardian described how "director Edward Hall and designer Miriam Buether work hard to solve the lack of momentum in the story and have fun with the 60s era... and although Joe Penhall's book uses football and the 1966 World Cup as a hook, it misses a trick in failing to seize the chance to explore the social history and changing mores of 60s Britain. Quite fun but unexpectedly bland too." Nick Hasted in the Independent explained that while "no one needs another jukebox musical, least of all The Kinks. Joe Penhall and Ray Davies instead offer the biography of a strange and unruly band, uncovering the pressure points, business decisions, triumphs and disasters behind Davies's writing of England's most painfully truthful songbook." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail proclaimed it as "a great show" while Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said that "fans of The Kinks will find this new musical irresistible. And anyone who doesn't know their work will be bowled over by the sheer quality of the songs."
"Edward Hall's triumphant production is about the ups and downs of The Kinks, the working-class lads from north London's Muswell Hill who made a new sexy, soulful sardonic sound the top of the pops. It brings the Swingng Sixties to dramatic life... The plot itself - sinple lads ripped off by their managers and publishers - seems clichéd, but playwright Joe Penhall's expert crafting has Ray Davies's songs intensifying the drama. In one of the finest theatrical debuts I've ever seen, John Dageish powerfully suggests the complexities of Ray, whose songs express what he can't say in words... George Maguire stuns as his hell-raising brother." The Mail on Sunday
"This bio-musical by and about the Kinks' Ray Davies revs up nicely, gets the audience going and leaves most jukebox shows for dust, even if its destination is unsurprising. Don't expect too probing a look at the group's fractious history from Joe Penhall's book. Do expect intra-band bust-ups, some slightly cosy class conflict, management woes and a superb back catalogue... The second half is padded out, but when the cast are blasting the ecstatically priapic You Really Got Me or the hazily recalled nostalgia of Waterloo Sunset, the production is pretty irresistible." The Sunday Times
"Writer Joe Penhall and director Ed Hall make the story seem fresh and full of zingy, Swinging Sixties excitement, though with a bittersweet edge coming from the strained relationships in the band despite their success. The Davies brothers are at the centre of the show: John Dalgliesh beautifully portrays Ray's thoughtful, outsiderish character while George Maguire is the comic heart of the show as wild young talent Dave. The musicianship in the show is faultless and the actors playing The Kinks re-create the band wonderfully... The hits are there of course but come mixed in with some of his later, more melancholy work which fits seamlessly." The Express on Sunday
The Kinks' Sunny Afternoon in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 4 October 2014, opened on 28 October 2014 and closed on 29 October 2016.