“A Mod and Modettes Musical Paradise”
The Opera House in Manchester hosted the opening night of ‘All or Nothing: The Mod Musical’ with a star studded audience and fantastic Italian Vespas on show at the entrance of the theatre. It was a cold and rainy October night but it certainly didn’t dampen the atmosphere as the audience buzzed with excitement in the auditorium. The auditorium was packed with an array of Mods young and old awaiting this new musical of The Small Faces.
All or Nothing: The Mod Musical by Carol Harrison and directed Tony McHale is based on the rise and fall of famous 1960’s band. Kenney Jones, Ian Mlagan, Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriot begin life as a band of talented teenage boys with passion, humour, and a touch of attitude leading them to success with massive hits such as “All Or Nothing”, “Sha-la-la-la-lee” and “Whatchya Gonna Do About It?”.
Carol Harrison is one of the UKs best recognised and highly respected actresses who began her professional career in the early 1970’s working in the cutting edge of new writing in the theatre. She is a professional screenwriter, writing for two series of the soap Gems and various episodes of The Bill.
Tony McHale the director was born in Bradford and educated at Hanson Grammar School, before going to the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. In the early stages of his career he worked extensively as an actor in theatre appearing at various theatres including Birmingham Rep, the Belgrade Coventry, Chester Gateway, Chesterfield Civic Theatre and Windsor Theatre Royal. His film appearances varied from A Bridge Too Far to That’ll Be the Day to The People That Time Forgot. On television he appeared in a wide range of shows such as The Liver Birds, Terry and June, the Cost of Loving, Game for a Laugh and Beadle’s About. The high point of his acting career was killing his own career by murdering Ernie Bishop in Coronation Street. During this period he developed his skills as a writer and director.
2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Mod scene. In 1964, a new phenomenon exploded on to the dingy British streets. It was the essence of all that was cool. It was Mod. Mods stuck two fingers up at the class-ridden society and its dull redundant culture. They were working-class free spirits who rode sexy streamlined Italian Vespas or Lambrettas. The sharpest Mod of all was known as a ‘FACE’. The Small Faces encapsulated all that is Mod, a unique blend of taste and testosterone, neat, clothes obsessed, and street-wise. But these cult sophisticates shared another passion, their dedication to ‘Rhythm n Blues.’
However becoming one of the UK’s biggest bands had its demons; after endless tours, gruelling schedules, and being on contract for just twenty pounds a week with cutthroat manager Don Arden (father to Sharon Osborne), this ultimately leads to the self-destruction of the band and tragedy.
Aged just 44, Steve Marriott died in a house fire, and it is his ‘spirit’ who steps onto the stage to take us back, first to his childhood, and then into the early sixties to witness the feel-good tale of the band’s rise to fame. This story is, however, laced with tragedy and alongside all the highs, the show opens one’s eyes to how they were exploited and fleeced – both artistically and financially – by manager, Don Arden. Apparently it took the band around twenty years to receive their royalties – by which time two of them were dead!
The members of the band played by Drew-Levi Huntsman as Kenney, Josh Maddison as Mac, Joseph Peters and Joshua Dowen as Ronnie are all skilled actor musicians who act out the story and bring the songs of The Small Faces to the performance by playing live as a band throughout. Chris Simmons plays the role of older deceased Steve Marriot (younger Steve played by Tim Edwards) and narrates the story with a fag and drink in his hand. Chris’s portrayal of Steve was brilliant; the audience were drawn in to his charm whenever he spoke. A particular audience favourite in the production was ensemble member Daniel Beales who played Steve’s father and several iconic roles such as Tony Blackburn and Sonny Bono.
The Mod and Scooter scene has a core fan base and it is estimated there are over a million Mod enthusiasts in this country alone. Research shows that Mods range in age from 17-70! Although the Mod movement was originally a very British phenomenon it now has global status and by the look of the audience many attended the opening night at The Opera House.
A great evening had by all, I would recommend this Musical to young - old Mod and Modettes as it is a perfect evening of nostalgia and brilliant musical numbers from the Mod era.
Credits to: Cameron Hall – Choreographer, Rebecca Brower - Set designer and Charlotte Espiner - Costume designer.
For tickets: Manchester Opera House - 18th - 22nd October, call 0844 871 3018 you won’t be disappointed.
Reviewer: Katie Leicester
Reviewed: 18th October 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★