ACT Theatre Reviews 2021-2022

SUNSHINE ON LEITH Director: Louise Colohan Musical Director: Marilyn Blank Choreographer: Liz Cardall Mid Cheshire Musical Theatre Company Sunshine on Leith follows the highs and lows of Ally and his friend Davy as they search for normality after returning from a tour in Afghanistan. Families, friendships, and life are not all plain sailing in this funny and moving story about love and life. Ally's marriage proposal is rejected by his childhood sweetheart, a nurse disillusioned with the part-privatised NHS, moves to the US to seek career fulfilment instead. Meanwhile, Davy gets a job in a call centre while his parents war over the discovery, years on, of father's infidelity. This musical, built round the music of The Proclaimers, is a laughter and tears story. The book is a little contrived at times and somewhat predictable, but this does not spoil the enjoyment of the musical. It is the music and performances that carry the show. Friend’s Ally and Davy recently discharged from the army, head home to their beloved Scotland and their families. An emotional journey unfolds (three different love stories) leading to a crisis that threatens their lives as they know it. To take the action unhindered from scene to scene, projected images took the audience from location to location. The opening images of the boys in Afghanistan were dramatic sending a clear message. Set dressings were added, neatly executed by the stage crew, the members of which were never late for a lighting cue, or getting in the way of the performers. The lighting plot created atmosphere giving depth to the piece. The sound didn’t just underpin the vocals, it added to the colour and overall mood. Fitting character presentation was that final jigsaw piece that completed the overall look. The creative team obviously had a passion for the show. The direction was fast-moving bringing out the best of each dramatic moment. Musically everyone was so strong bringing the music to life, making it the heart of the evening. The choreography, although not as gritty as one might have expected, was delivered with accuracy and feeling. There can be problem when actors have to deliver an accent. Will it get between the character and the narrative? In this presentation, every word came across engaging the audience throughout the show. The casting was splendid: the ensemble, and smaller roles, delivered individual characters giving credence to their respective scenes. The subplot of the love-child, Eilidh (Jenna Finnigan) of Dave’s Dad, Rab, with all its consequences, was poignantly delivered. Adrian Grace gave a memorable portrayal as good natured, likeable Rab. Rab’s wife, Jean, the family matriarch, was played by Catherine Baddeley. Catherine was in total control of her characterisation and extracted all the drama from the role. The dilemma of finding out, and accepting, Eilidh was very well handled. The love interest of Ally, Davy, his sister Liz, and her friend, Yvonne, turned matters into an emotional rollercoaster. Verity McKay, as Liz, ticked all the boxes and Melanie Rayner had her moments as Yvonne. The central set of performances Davy and Ally have to carry the show. Myles Ryan and Connor Ryan skilfully portrayed the two comrades in arms in civvie-street. They had great on-stage chemistry and vocal ability. Using the number, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” for the finale was like a stirring anthem. It certainly got the audience to its feet as the piper played. This uplifting enjoyable production allowed the audience to forget all about covid and lockdown. Oh. the magic of theatre!