Sunshine on Leith

Date 25th September 2021
Society Mid-Cheshire Musical Theatre Company
Venue Northwich Memorial Court
Type of Production Musical
Director Louise Colohan
Musical Director Marilyn Blank
Choreographer Liz Cardall

Report

Author: Joe Clarke

Mid Cheshire Musical Theatre Company returned to the stage this week with their production of ‘The Proclaimers’ Musical’, Sunshine on Leith.  Directed by Louise Colohan, Sunshine on Leith tells the story of best pals, Ally and Davy, who upon returning from their tour of Afghanistan, attempt to find love and forge relationships in the Scottish town of Leith.  In the backdrop of this, Davy’s parents are celebrating their thirty-year anniversary and dealing with an issue of their own. 

I have to say, the storytelling was excellent throughout from all and the plot was abundantly clear.  I had no issues with projection, diction or acting through song at all and I have to say that every single accent was outstanding!  There was a lot of emphasis on the story and the character development, and this shone through.  This is a piece of (musical) theatre with a lot of heart and soul and this production had heart and soul in abundance.  Kudos to Louise Colohan for her efforts to keep the storyline and the characters at the forefront. 

Visually, this piece was beautiful.  I loved the plain white set, with projections by Simon Matthews, which worked a treat and provided a great backdrop to each scene.  It also meant that the stage could be split into different locations which worked well with the pace and scene changes.  Saying that, generally the scene changes were too long and laborious and effected the overall pace.  At the end of scenes, we could see actors leaving the stage and/or carrying props and staging off, which detracts from the visuals.  I feel it would’ve been better to either incorporate the scene changes within the scene or had a full blackout to aid the scene changes.  The band played a rall throughout the scene changes which helped with the overall feel though.

There were some lovely directorial decisions with the projections and staging for the opening scene, as well as the company scenes which were highly entertaining!  The acting from the ensemble in the whole company scenes were great, particularly the bar scenes!  Dawn Lloyd and Claire Bentley were particularly hilarious! I believe the ending with the live piper playing the bagpipes was particularly poignant too but on the day that I watched he had a slight issue with his reed.  Overall though, this was a very entertaining production that audiences thoroughly enjoyed – thus a standing ovation at every performance!

The musical director for this production was Marilyn Blank.  I have to say, I was very underwhelmed with the vocals of the whole company.  Some of the individuals sounded fantastic but generally there was a lack of musical direction.  At times, it felt like more time was spent with the band rather than musically directing the company.  Saying that, the band sounded great.  I loved the combination of the string instruments (both electric and acoustic) and the drummer was sympathetic to the overall piece too.

I was also very underwhelmed with the lack of range within the choreography.  I felt there were more opportunities for the company to dance, have fun and incorporate different styles etc – they certainly looked capable!  For me, the choreography from Liz Cardall was too basic.  I don’t want to be too divisive though because the audience certainly really enjoyed this piece so maybe I’m just being overly negative.

The sound and lighting was good, especially the sound department (Tom Maurice).  I’ve mentioned in other reviews that his venue is very difficult to work with and for me, Tom does a great job every time.  The lighting plot was great and was used well to create atmosphere and establish locations etc.  If I was to be really picky (which of course I am) I felt that we needed a follow spot to pick out the darker spots on stage.  There were a few times when the smoke machine was on in random scenes (such as Rab and Jean’s house, which was a little distracting.  The props and set team deserve a mention too, despite the cumbersome scene changes, the props and set looked fantastic and were used brilliantly throughout.  The props really added a fantastic layer to the scenes.

Davy (Myles Ryan), and Ally (Connor Ryan), were brilliantly cast and thoroughly entertaining.  Their Scottish accents were fantastic, as was their storytelling!  Whilst I felt that Myles was slightly trying too hard to show the emotion rather than felling it naturally, his singing was brilliant and rapport with Connor was fantastic.  I could’ve listened to Connor Ryan singing all day – his voice is beautiful.  I also believed in his relationship with Liz (Verity McKay) too and loved their characters journey.  Myles sounded fab in ‘When I Met You’ and Connor’s version of ‘Sky Takes the Soul’ was excellent!

Jenna Finnigan was also well cast as Eilidh and was entertaining throughout.  I really wanted to see more of this character which is a sign of a good actor I suppose.  Melanie Rayner played the role of the love interest Yvonne.  I liked the acting that Melanie brought to the stage, however, I could tell that she had voice/throat issues which impacted on her singing a little.   I also felt that she could’ve brough a little more energy to the role as the energy dipped slightly in some of her scenes.

Catherine Baddeley and Adrian Grace played the roles of the parents Jean and Rab and were simply superb!  Both the accents were excellent, as was their characterisations and comic timing!  Every time they were on stage, I sat up in my seat a little more and felt totally at ease watching them.  Catherine’s vocals were brilliant, but it was her acting through song which totally enthralled me.  Her version of ‘Sunshine on Leith’ was brilliant!  Well done to both Catherine and Adrian for your brilliant efforts – which haven’t gone unnoticed.

The supporting cast were great and brought a fresh feel to the heavier scenes.  As I mentioned, the bar scenes were particularly funny, as was the Call Centre Instructor scene.  Dawn Lloyd’s instructor was brilliant and the whole scene was very well set with the desks on wheels etc.

At times, I am underwhelmed with watching excellent singers performing riffs and over singing and not connecting with the text.  In this production, it felt like I was watching actors who connected with the lyrics and acted through song, which for me is much more interesting.

Well done to Mid Cheshire Musical Theatre Company for an entertaining night at the theatre.  Your audiences certainly enjoyed themselves and it was clear the cast were having a ball being on stage again.  I reiterate that the company scenes were a joy to watch, and even though some of you might have been at the back, you were still watchable, and I loved what you brought!  Visually, this was a great production which had great acting and heart and soul. 

I thank MCMTC for their hospitality and I very much look forward to returning to Mid Cheshire’s next production of American Idiot in March 2022.