It must be said, I had trepidations about seeing a musical based on the story of one of the world’s most famous rock bands.
My fears were largely based on a previous bad experience that simply soured the idea that pop music could find its feet in theatre.
Despite the reviews, I hated Mamma Mia. I thought the ABBA extravaganza was clumsy, ludicrously staged and beyond the pale in its Shakespearean-comedy cheesiness.
After all, canvassing a story around a band’s back-catalogue cannot be easy – and with Sunny Afternoon I expected a similarly slapdash cash-cow of a singalong.
It took me only two songs to realise just how wrong I was.
Few bands have transferred as effortlessly to theatre as the Kinks do, simply because few acts can say that their music captured an age quite like they did.
The Beatles may have led the 1960s ‘British Invasion’, as the show mockingly references throughout, but as John Lennon’s head bops about on the Ed Sullivan Show to I Want To Hold Your Hand it is hard to believe they sang much about it.
The Kinks did. They were dirtier, rawer and unashamedly working-class.
Songs such as Dead End Street, Denmark Hill and Sunny Afternoon give insights into the unglamorous realities of 1960s London.
While as reluctant frontman Ray Davies’ music matures he begins to contemplate the darker side of fame in Sitting In My Hotel and Rock And Roll Fantasy.
Davies was never scared of pouring his soul, childhood and loneliness into his music and precisely because of that, the musical still packs the emotional punch any story needs.
The Kinks’ albums play like intertwined stories put to melodies, so it is no surprise they fit together so well here.
Of course, intermixed with the heartfelt ballads and social commentaries are the pulsating anthems of You Really Got Me, All Day and All Of the Night and Lola – songs that get all ages on their feet for a seismic climax.
In fact, this musical is so well-crafted and so immersing you almost forget the songs were never written for the theatre, and you are instead watching production to match Broadway’s best.
Every song and reference is laced with the perfect blend of nostalgia and humour – all set to the beat of the cultural whirlwind of 1960s London.
It is loud, funny, heartfelt, moving and will leave you scrambling in the attic to dig out those dusty records.
A must see.