Sunshine on Leith: Review as jukebox musical impresses in Sheffield
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It tells the story of soldiers and best friends Davy and Ally as they search for normality after returning home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Setting the backdrop to the storyline, the opening scene shows the two infantrymen in their camouflage fatigues marching with their comrades to the tune of Sky Takes The Soul and the haunting lyric ‘it could be tomorrow, it could be today’ as the squaddies put their lives on the line for their country.
The next scene shows the brothers in arms returning home to their beloved Leith in Edinburgh, full of optimism that they can rebuild the lives they left behind when they signed up to serve their country. But as the audience soon discovers, life in civvy street does not turn out to be quite as easy as they first imagined.
If ever there was a set list perfect for a storyline set in Scotland, it is this – the full back catalogue of hits by Scottish legends The Proclaimers.
In the same vein as Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You, this is a jukebox musical where famous Proclaimers hits are interwoven into a storyline where it is hard for the audience to know what came first – the plot or the song lyrics.
The folk-rock band’s most famous hits including 500 Miles, Letter from America and Sunshine on Leith (which the musical is named after) prove to be audience favourites as can be expected, but with 19 songs in total used in the show, there are plenty of ‘Oh, they did this too’ moments for those not too familiar with the band.
Quite often with jukebox musicals, it often doesn’t matter what the storyline is because the songs are so big that they can carry a weaker plot. But when the soundtrack is not as well known as others, the story has to have substance, which is what you get with this. It is a gritty take on hope, love, family and relationships with contrasting moments of misery and hilarity throughout, with the cast more than able to portray both light and dark.
This amateur production by STOS Theatre Company runs until Saturday, November 19 and comes after the company proved a smash hit in the Steel City with their version of Elf the Musical last year.
Double act Davy (Matt Bevan) and Ally (Ashley Wilson) show what appears to be a genuine on-stage chemistry and their voices blend perfectly in their many harmonies.
Throw into the mix Davy’s sister Liz (Suzanne Peach) and her friend Yvonne (Catherine Harban), with their pitch perfect vocals, and the stage comes alive.
Davy and Yvonne’s relationship blossoms before your eyes while Ally and Liz’s combusts – with every spectrum of emotion portrayed by the pairings. Their acting is raw, natural and honest and a breath of fresh air.
Add to this the more experienced pairing of Rab (Phil Brownhill) and Jean (Helen Kempton), who play the parents of Davy and Liz, and who have the impressive ability to draw you in and transport you to Leith, where you feel like a fly on the wall in their dining room at times. Again, honest emotion, without any over-acting proves so powerful.
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