Review – All or Nothing – The Mod Musical – New Wolsey Theatre until Saturday 17th Sept
Following on from a spate of jukebox musicals doing the rounds at the moment – ‘Let it Be’, ‘ Sunny Afternoon’ – this one taps deeply into sixties nostalgia, producing a framework to tell the story of Steve Marriot and his band The Small Faces.
Unfortunately for them they were around at the same time as The Beatles and The Kinks – so probably suffered under their lime light – not that it would have worried the brash cockney ‘in yer face’ Steve – a definite rebel without a cause – who if this production is anything to go by seemed happy to upset just about everybody both on his way up and down on the greasy pole of fame.
This was all too early for me to have experienced personally – and I think this show is very much directed at the fans. The writer Carol Harrison ( who also plays Steve’s mother) assumes you basically know the story and the background to the rise of the Mods – and I suppose most people coming to see this will. All I knew about the band was that Rod Stewart took over as lead and they became The Faces. This was in the wake of a public bust up during a gig at Alexandra Palace – showed on stage in slow motion which was a missed piece of drama in my book. All those smashing guitars would have made it all seem a bit more real and gritty. As it is it reminded me of those cartoony TV programmes about that other sixties group The Monkeys – too tongue in cheek to really be taken seriously.
On the plus side the music is terrific if you like that sort of thing – and the band make a really good job of rocking it up – and according to my companion who was there at the time – they sounded and looked authentic. But the story line seemed light, and left more questions than answers. What made the guy so angry in the first place? What happened to his first love PP Arnold? What happened to his wife Jenny ( she makes a brief appearance on stage but she’s not even mentioned in the programme!)?
Chris Simmons plays the older Steve – back from the dead and getting more and more inebriated as he narrates the story of his rise and fall – and that of the band. Tim Edwards plays his younger self – all swagger and attitude – and with a pretty good voice. The rest of the cast play a number of parts – some more successfully than others. It’s all fast paced but a bit of a miss mash as we rocket through a couple of ripof managers, changes in band members, fallings out, party nights, over enthusiastic fans and appearances on various TV shows with Danny Beales playing everyone from Tony Blackburn to Sonny from Sonny and Cher .
But its bright and bold – the set a throw back to everything sixties including an egg chair – the costumes authentic and plenty of Mod symbols to make sure you know the era we are in. And all the hits get played – including their most famous hit Itchycoo Park, Lazy Sunday, Tin Soldier and of course All or Nothing. And the audience loved it – singing along at the end to a few reprieves.
But considering the tragic end of both the band and its lead singer – he played the Ipswich Corn Exchange a week before he died in a house fire caused by a fallen cigarette – by this time way past his best and with a serious drink problem – this seemed very lightweight.
However – if this is your era – and if you loved the music then – you will love this show now.