Sunny Afternoon: 2015 report

(l-r) Danny Horn, Oliver Hoare, Damien Walsh, Tom Whitelock in Sunny Afternoon. Credit - Kevin Cummins.jpg
Danny Horn, Oliver Hoare, Damien Walsh and Tom Whitelock in Sunny Afternoon
Photography by Kevin Cummins

2015 was a pretty good year for me, on the whole – and a very Sunny one indeed! I have talked & talked about the astounding original cast (if you’ve not seen it all, there’s plenty to catch up on), so now it’s time for me to start harassing you with the brilliance of the current cast.

You’ll recall it wasn’t an instant thing, but by around the 6-week mark I had really fallen for this group of talents. And I marked it, in true Afternooner fashion, by doing my first double of their run! And the fact that I was more than happy to spend my birthday there too says it all, really.

It’s strange; the show feels different as well as the same… Not my most articulate sentence ever, but it is hard to describe. What I love so much about the show is the artistic freedom given to the cast, meaning they can properly act rather than just copy. For example, I’ve now seen all six possible Rays and all of them have been a slightly different interpretation of exactly the same script. Where else in the West End do you get such variation in style but consistent quality? The spirit of Sunny Afternoon remains the same, but this cast have definitely made it their own now.

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Sunny Afternoon ensemble at their media night curtain call
Photo credit: Dan Wooller

And I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the casting team on assembling another group that are as lovely as they are talented! It must be a bit odd, and maybe a tad nerve-wracking, to take over a show which has accumulated a group of dedicated superfans despite only existing for just over a year – but they’ve won us over, and hopefully we’re not too much of a nuisance for them!

If you follow me on my personal Twitter account, you may have noticed that I’ve finally come up with a new ‘routine’ for this cast. I had got into the habit of tweeting a couple of  quotes at the “twinterval” and then given my ‘moment of the night/afternoon’, but felt that I should do something slightly new. It’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it’s fun to do and does provide a mini-review of the night:

So I guess now all that’s left to do is praise the whole company again! My media night review was of the second time I saw the show post-Doomsday (and still the only time I’ve seen the full cast!), so it’s inevitable that my opinions have had time to evolve as the cast themselves have developed their characters.

The cast of Sunny Afternoon. Credit - Kevin Cummins (2).jpg
The cast of Sunny Afternoon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

I was so glad when Ryan was announced as an official alternate Ray, and he really has not let me down! I was there for his very first time covering the role earlier in the year, and I think he’ll be the first to admit that it was a bit of a shaky start – but he’s not looked back and really has gone from strength to strength. Since he’s had regular stage time he’s just kept getting better, and is visibly enjoying himself.

The rest of Team B has had a much busier time than they may have anticipated! Obviously they’ve risen to the occasion admirably, and I feel privileged & very happy to have seen each & every one of them in 2015. I cut it fine with Alex, seeing him on New Year’s Eve! He really has made a confident start to Team B life. Interestingly he plays a saxophone instead of a brass instrument (Gabriel & Charlie play the trombone, Nick the trumpet) – it’s not quite as ‘in your face’! The other newbie, Rob, I’ve seen in a couple of guises so far – he seems to be settling into the team very well indeed.

And it’s been an absolute pleasure to see so much of the rest of them! Keeping the same set of understudies (bar the departing Silas and promoted Stephen) has kept a bit of consistency – and it’s interesting to see how much of the current cast’s interpretations they’ve incorporated into their own performances.

Oddly I hadn’t considered how difficult it might be when Nick first had to cover for Damien as Mick, what with Adam (& Mick) being my favourite – I was so excited by the prospect that I sat with Jess at our table. And obviously I loved it, but perhaps being that close wasn’t the wisest choice when you start getting emotional during the drum solo! I’m glad I had a chance to get over the originals before this, as I doubt I would have coped as well.

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Niamh Bracken, Oliver Hoare and Alice Cardy in Sunny Afternoon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

And what of the others? I loved that they felt confident enough to start ad libbing & playing with their characters only a few weeks in, hitting on some brilliant things that now make regular appearances.

You may recall from my review that there was one performance in particular that I didn’t really enjoy. Since then I’ve looked at other reviews & social media reaction, and it seems (at least publicly) that I’m in the minority. Having now seen this lot quite a few times, I think in part I underestimated quite how much I’d miss members of the ensemble – that definitely played a part in it – plus the Wace/Collins partnership does seem to be a bit more balanced now Gabriel & Charlie have spent a few months onstage together.

I’ll be honest, the first time I went back I really missed Angry Mick. That was impressively quickly rectified! Damien & Tom have done a brilliant job at bringing the rhythm section back out of the shadows – and I continue to be overawed by Tom’s skills on the bass. I keep finding a new bassline that distracts me, but Lola does every single time. So much so that I’m starting to sound a bit like a broken record!

Tom Whitelock (as Pete Quaife) in Sunny Afternoon. Credit - Kevin Cummins.jpg
Tom Whitelock in Sunny Afternoon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

Oliver is terrific entertainment value. There have been several occasions when I’ve felt my cheeks actually getting cramp because I’ve been grinning so much, and mainly at his antics! He’s a dab hand at squirting the ‘bubbly’ all over the audience – and we Afternooners definitely have targets on our heads now… A bit of a cliché, but he really does have a magnetic presence. It took the team quite some time to cast Dave but their patience well & truly paid off.

What more can I say about Danny? He is consistently brilliant and quite obviously having the time of his life up on that stage. We all especially love watching him fall off the chair in the dentist scene… (Sorry Danny!) His partnership with Oliver really does seem like you’re watching a pair of brothers; there’s an intensity to their interactions and a proper bond.

As a band they do have their own sound – it would be a shame if we don’t get a cast recording of some kind from them. Generally speaking you do only usually get original casts releasing soundtracks, but given the fact that things have changed a bit… Pretty please?

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Megan Leigh Mason and Danny Horn in Sunny Afternoon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

The future really does look bright for my lovely show: seats are still “selling very well” (thank you, Larry) and an extension into May has very recently been announced. The evening show on Wednesday 6 January also happened to be the 500th show at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

There are still some minor issues here & there, but I’m not paid to give notes! The original cast were developing their performances right up until their last day, so I’m confident that this lovely lot will do exactly the same. And hey, I’ve declared my love for them now – so they’re stuck with me for the forseeable!

Sunny 500
500th show celebrations
Photo credit: @KinksMusical
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