Sunny Afternoon, Harold Pinter Theatre

Musicals documenting and celebrating the lives of prominent musicians and bands are increasingly popular: Jersey Boys, Thriller, Let it Be and now Sunny Afternoon, a show dedicated to the hits of the Kinks.

This punchy show enjoyed a sold-out run at the Hampstead Theatre, and has now transferred to the West End’s Harold Pinter Theatre. Based on the music and lyrics of Ray Davies and a new book by Joe Penhall, the production follows the Kinks rise to stardom. The drama is set against the backdrop of Britain in the 50s and 60s and here we watch the ecstatic highs and thudding lows of this iconic band.

As a child I had a group of talented friends from Muswell Hill who formed a band, so moments of this musical really resonated with me. Four ordinary lads from North London strive for success while also trying to remain true to themselves.

The stage is simply set, with a catwalk through the audience in the stalls. We feel excitingly close to the action, and the loud amplified music pulses through the building, so you can feel and hear it. The four boys have been brilliantly cast: George Macguire is a wild, passionate and aggressive replica of Dave ‘the Rave’ Davies, while John Dagleish presents his older brother as a more thoughtful but headstrong lead, Ray Davies. Adam Sopp (as drummer Mick Avory) and Ned Derrington (as bassist Pete Quaife) provide compelling support to the two feuding brothers.

It is interesting to watch the backstory to a band who have influenced generations. Whether you remember the Kinks decades ago or have been introduced to their sound more recently, it is impossible not to enjoy the cast’s riotous renditions of You Really Got Me, Lola, Waterloo Sunset, and of course Sunny Afternoon.

Continues until May 23 2015, more information and book here.

Merrily We Roll Along, Harold Pinter Theatre

Merrily We Roll Along is a Sondheim classic, one of the more accessible pieces written by this genius of 20th Century music. The current production at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London seems to be delighting audiences every night.

The story runs in reverse zooming back through the life of a film producer, Franklin Shepard, showing all the celebrations, mishaps and disasters. It is really the tale of three best friends and how their lives and friendships change as they grow older and more cynical.

The music is vintage Sondheim, quirky and surprising with lovely recurring melodies and satisfying harmonies. It is an inventive and creative Sonia Freidman revival. The production is brilliantly cast with particularly touching performances from Jenna Russell as Mary and Damian Humbley as Charley.

A believable and thrilling musical by Sondheim that feels more relevant than ever for today’s fast moving stardom and wealth-obsessed culture.