Carnaby Street in the swinging 60's proved a popular haunt for the Mods and the Hippies, you could find the latest fashions and visit underground music bars such as the famous Marquee Club where this musical is set, which is actually on neighbouring Wardour Street.
The musical which received it's world premiere at the Hackney Empire earlier this year is the story of Jude (Matthew Wycliffe), who arrives in Soho in search of fame and fortune after travelling from Liverpool with his best friend Penny Lane (Verity Rushworth). After a chance encounter with man-about-town Jack Sprat (Aaron Sidwell), Jude joins a band at the Marquee Club and makes it big in the music scene.
Set against the hustle and bustle of Carnaby Street and with a varied soundtrack of 60's hits such as Bend Me Shape Me, Son Of A Preacher Man, Sweets For My Sweet, Shout, Born To Be Wild and Downtown both cast and audience can definitely have fun. Where the musical lacks slightly is in storyline - with so many as 40 hits and a megamix finale most of the time spent is singing with less attention to the characters and their story between songs. A lot songs are just included for the sake of it, and do little to further the plot, which was more a series of mini sub-plots. Not that this really matters for those in the audience of a reminiscent age, they were quite obviously enjoying the opportunity to hear so many of their songs of youth played and sung live by such an expert cast.
Matthew Wycliffe (fresh from two years in Jersey Boys) shines as Jude who proves to be right at home in the juke-box musical after a stint as Buddy in the Buddy Holly Story too. Had he have been this age in the 60's he could quite easily have been an icon. Verity Rushworth also shows extreme vocal talent, rousing the audience with Shout. Aaron Sidwell is a delight as Jack who we see first and offers a warm and friendly welcome to Carnaby Street. Tricia Adele Turner (We Will Rock You/Legally Blonde) is Jane who turns her back on the upper-class English tradition in favour of sex, drugs and rock n roll! She excels with songs such as Dusty Springfield's I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself.
Impressive is Hugo Harold-Harrison as Arnold Layne - the sex crazed owner of the record label. Dominant and commanding of the stage - a far cry from his recent appearance in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. Someone who wouldn't have been out of place in Priscilla is Lily (The Pink) played by Paul Hazel. The fabulously camp, cross-dressing boutique owner helps Jude on his way to stardom and serves almost as a mother character to everyone who happens to pop in store. Lily's numbers such as Son Of A Preacher Man and Poison Ivy bring the house down. Actor-musicanship in this show is impeccable.
If 60's is your thing it's likely you'll enjoy Carnaby Street. This musical is a great excuse to bring back the songs of the 60's, relive them and bring them to brand new audience. It's fun, easy to watch, enjoyable night at the theatre - hardly groundbreaking but the cast give everything they've got to ensure you have a good time - the end is giant 60's party! With only a few remaining weeks of this current UK tour make sure you don't miss out - book for the Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre here.
The cast of Carnaby Street pose in Birmingham City Centre today!
See what audiences thought of the show!
Cast List: Verity Rushworth, Aaron Sidwell, Matthew Wycliffe, Tricia Adele Turner, Gregory Clarke, Hugo Harold-Harrison, Paul Hazel, Mark Pearce, Craig Anderson, Jonny Bower, Tom Connor, CiCi Howells, Lilly Howard, Claude Pelletier, Matthew Quinn, Katie Pritchard, Mike Slader, Dan Smith and Lauren Storer.