The show must go on: part 3

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One of the many plus points of going to see a show so many times is the opportunity to see a variety of actors in the same roles, as the principal cast either unfortunately get ill/injured, or (more happily for them) take a well-earned holiday. Having now seen Sunny Afternoon 111 times, I’ve managed to see every single understudy onstage! Though still not in each of their roles, but we’ll ignore that fact for now. (See parts 1 & 2 for the rest.)

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Ned was the very last of the band to be off; it wasn’t until my 92nd show that I saw a different Pete! And Robbie White certainly stepped into the role well. Initially it was odd to finally see a ‘correct-handed’ Pete, after only ever seeing a left-handed one – but as with ‘wrong-handed’ Pete, this soon fades into the background as the music takes over. Robbie’s Pete is fairly similar to Ned’s, without being a straight copy; you still get the sense of Pete being overwhelmed at the world he’s been thrust into, following his initial enthusiasm. And the real test for me is ‘A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy’. Ned never fails to make me cry at this point, so the fact that Robbie also achieved this is testament to his performance.

Photo credit: sunnyafternoonthemusical.com
Photo credit: sunnyafternoonthemusical.com

Lia Given has quickly proven herself to be a real asset to the show. Joining in April, she has taken on the job of assistant dance captain as well as understudying Gwen, Joyce & Peggy – and I have now seen her in the latter role. She once again brings great energy to the performance, coupled with excellent comic delivery of her few lines. And she’s not afraid to run at Ray during ‘Set Me Free’! It was fantastic to see her doing the ‘Denmark Street’ tap section (in conjunction with both Adam & Nick on the cajon on different occasions), having previously seen both Kirsty & Carly covering Em before. She is remaining as understudy rather than taking over from Amy as a principal cast member – so hopefully there will be a few more shows lined up for her in the near future!

Photo credit: Sunny Afternoon Instagram (via Vicki Manser)
Photo credit: Sunny Afternoon Instagram (via Vicki Manser)

Vicki Manser is truly Sunny Afternoon’s superwoman! Her task is to cover any one of the female roles in the show… At any minute she could be called upon to become a Davies sister, Rasa or Mrs Davies/Marsha. No mean feat! So far I’ve just seen her take on the role of Joyce; I seem to remember my initial description of her performance was ‘vivacious’. I know it’s her job, but I couldn’t help but be impressed at how confident she was with so little stage time under her belt! (Especially given everything she has to keep in her head.) Even more impressively, she recently came on partway through a show to take over as Gwen when Carly was taken ill – apparently taking the boys by surprise during ‘You Really Got Me’! And whilst Amy was on as Rasa, Vicki got the opportunity to play Lillie‘s guitar & banjo parts in the pit (& occasionally in the background of a scene!). It was fantastic to see her rocking out in the finale, in particular.

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Finally! Almost three months into his time as a Sunny understudy, and Lloyd Gorman got his chance to be Piven for a couple of days (and then another couple recently). It was certainly worth the wait! I really enjoyed his ‘gentleman’s outfitter’ in the pre-‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ scene. (Especially his pronunciation of ‘whiff’ – echoed by John‘s Ray, to my giddy excitement.) And his turn as Piven in the union reps scene… Very funny! His interpretation of the roles is a big contrast to previous ‘inhabitants’, which makes it all the more refreshing and keeps the show novel for repeat attenders. I did miss the short solo during ‘Stop Your Sobbing’, but who knows – maybe it will make an appearance another time?

Photo credit: Amy Ross (@amylross85)
Photo credit: Amy Ross (@amylross85)

Now, this was a real first for me. A new Rasa! I never got the chance to see Kirsty do this, so when I found out that regular Joyce (Amy Ross) was stepping up I leapt at the chance. I was only supposed to see her once, but I ended up going three times in her week-long run… Amy was an absolute revelation. It was fantastic to finally hear her singing voice, which is absolutely stunning – a bit of a preview for Kinky Boots. This made ‘I Go To Sleep’ a real high point of all of her performances. Possibly my favourite part was the London Underground scene; the way Rasa blurted out her parents’ plans was hilarious, and brilliantly done. Amy’s Rasa showed a wonderful naïve enthusiasm for the world opened up to her by Ray – whilst remaining feisty enough to hold her own as Ray’s life starts to spiral out of control.

Alice Cardy has stepped into Amy’s shoes as Joyce & understudy Rasa, so it will be interesting to compare if I ever get to see her in this role.

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And another ‘at last’ to end with… Ryan O’Donnell as Dave! I very nearly got to see him at the end of May, but there was a last-minute change of plan (that’s showbiz!) – and he also stepped in a couple of weeks ago, but I was unable to be there. So when his next run came round I made the most of it! After seeing him with his own curls as Ray, it was a bit odd to see him in a Dave wig, but he really looked the part, and completely rocked ‘I Gotta Move’. What strikes you quite early on is that his Dave isn’t quite as child-like as George‘s. Instead he’s a pleasure-seeking, yet angry young man; over the three shows I saw him in, his Dave’s antagonistic relationship with Mick definitely developed. But what impressed me most were the moments between the two brothers – his & John’s voices blend together beautifully, and there is a real brotherly chemistry there. The enjoyment Ryan had really came through, in particular during ‘Sunny Afternoon’ and the finale, which only added to my enjoyment of his performance!

I’d love it if I got the chance to see him playing Dave again, and would definitely recommend you catch him if you can.

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So. That’s it! I do still hope to see the remaining roles that this very talented group of understudies cover, and you will definitely hear from me again if I do…

While we’re talking understudies, just a reminder that Nick & Ryan are both nominated for West End Frame’s ‘Understudy of the Year‘ Award – give them a vote by 12 August!

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5 thoughts on “The show must go on: part 3

  1. Couldn’t agree more re: Ryan as Dave. I was in London the last week of July and caught four shows; three with Ryan as Dave, the last with him as Ray. I, too, was struck by how well his and John’s voices complemented each other. I thought the John-Ryan pairing made the undercurrent of tenderness beneath all the tumult of the brothers’ relationship a bit more palpable than the Ryan-George pairing — which I think says a lot about the choices John makes in his role. You’re right, too, about the child-impishness of George’s Dave. About a year into my Kinks fandom, I characterized Dave’s vocals as the laughing crowd in a bar. George’s Dave certainly embodies that. But with all due respect to George Maguire — because he is fantastic — Ryan’s Dave seems to come with a few more layers.

    Have yet to see John and George perform together (my travels will take me through London twice more before I go back to the States, so I hope it all lines up), but I will say that where Ryan brought a lot to Dave, his Ray is much more internal than John’s. Probably truer to life, and probably more a result of Ryan shifting into a new role, but it seems like George’s Dave needs the energy and presence of John Dagleish’s Ray to balance him out on stage.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts — I have been dying to talk about this show with someone, but alas, I am the only Kinks/Sunny Afternoon fan in my circle.

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