- United Kingdom Theatre Critic
Sunshine on Leith is a hit Scottish musical produced originally by Dundee Rep, written by Stephen Greenhorn and music by Scotland's favourite singing duo, The Proclaimers. I loved the movie adaption of this musical, however, I had never seen it on stage. Well, until tonight. I joined a sold-out audience at Glasgow's King's Theatre to catch West Yorkshire Playhouse's touring production of this much-loved story.
The story follows two soldiers, Ally and Davy, returning home to Leith, after a tour of Afghanistan. Ally wants to make things more serious with Davy's sister, Liz, but does she want the same? Davy starts seeing Liz's friend from her work, Yvonne, they are both getting used to one another but will one action spoil where things are leading? And when Rab's (Liz and Davy's father) past comes back to haunt him, could this jeopardise his marriage with Jean? Find out in this stunning romantic musical!
James Brining as director creatively re-masters Sunshine On Leith and makes it one of the most seamless productions touring the UK & Ireland. Brilliantly teaming up with Colin Richmond for a genius movable and multi-purpose, bar setting. It genuinely feels like we are in the Leith Docker's social club at points with how open Brining has made this play to the audience, with some brilliant Brechtian techniques. Tim Mitchell supplies excellent lighting to help suggest the change in setting throughout the story, and he hits the tone appropriately for every musical number.
Toby Higgins is the musical director for this production. Having the band on stage at all times, as a band playing at a bar or sometimes posing as buskers is ingenious! The band and the arrangement by David Shrubsole are what lifts this from being just a normal musical. They give it energy, depth, emotion and along with the ensemble being heavily featured with breathtaking harmonies, this is a musically stunning production. Also, Emily-Jane Boyles supplies matching superb choreography which adds to lift the energy and gives the audience loads to feast their eyes with, even the band joins in with the dancing!
Steven Miller is outstandingly good as Davy! His voice is simply lovely, and he effortlessly dances while hitting some tricky notes. His characterisation of Davy is very believable as a Scottish man who finds it hard to express himself at times and deal with the complexity of love. Paul-James Corrigan as Ally is just perfect casting, Paul's singing, dancing, and acting ability are unbelievable, no wonder he is seen on Scotland's stages so often! His singing was exceptional, and the character journey from Ally being a man wearing his heart on his sleeve to a man hurt by love was one which the audience really felt impacted by. Paul and Steven both singing The Proclaimer's hit, On My Way was when the audience warmed up, and that was the 2nd number in.
Jocasta Almgill graced the stage as Yvonne, she showed a vulnerable, damaged woman through great acting technique, effortlessly belting The Proclaimer's famous lyrics, and all this while owning the complex choreography. Nesha Caplan played Liz as a very believable character, she gave her much more depth than seen within the film adaptation. Nesha's standard of singing was definitely one of the standouts in this production, Letter from America was sang with such emotion, depth and meaning, the audience loved it!
Phil McKee portrayed a stereotypical grumpy Scotsman, I found his acting was one of the standouts with the shock and devastation his character had to endure. Phil portrayed this perfectly, he even reminded me of my grandfather at points, I'm sure his portrayal resonated with a lot of the audience members. Nikki Patel as Eilidh was brilliant at helping add to the more complex and emotional side of this story. The audience could feel the awkwardness and emotion Eilidh felt, Nikki's portrayal really made the audience feel the tense moments of the scenario. Hilary MacLean was definitely another standout, most notably, her performance of the title song, Sunshine on Leith, it was such a strong and tear wrenching performance. Her portrayal of Jean reminded me of my mother, she absolutely nailed that character, Jane Horrocks eat your heart out!
The ensemble, Euan Bennet, Joel Burman, Tyler Collins, Richard Colvin, Lorraine Graham, John McLarnon, Lorna McMillan, Matthew Malthouse, Emma Mullen, Sioned Saunders and Kara Swinner, all were outstanding, vocally and physically adding to the production. They helped create the environment of the busy streets and pubs of Edinburgh/Leith.
If you thought Sunshine on Leith the movie was uplifting, then you have seen nothing. This musical is meant to be on stage, specifically, this production emphasises this! This NEEDS to get a transfer to the west end, screw Waitress or Dear Evan Hansen, get Sunshine on Leith a residency in London! Tonight when I'm Gonna Be (500 miles) came on, one guitar rift in and the audience was clapping, tapping, by the end of it, the audience were giving the actors and band on stage a huge standing obviation. And this one was DEFINITELY deserved. This musical is stunningly joyous! Get out and see it! If you can! As it's been sold out in Glasgow and Edinburgh. For good reason, I rate this musical 5/5 stars, and its the best production I have seen in 2018. Amazing!
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