I inherited a love of sixties music from my parents. In 1962 my mum was a Salford born Mersey-beat fanatic. A teenage girl twisting away at the cavern club to the likes of Shane Fenton, Billy Fury, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the newly formed Beatles. My parents loved those bands and the musical tastes I have today were forged as a child listening to The Kinks, The Who, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and The Small Faces.
And so, with giddy anticipation I arrived at the Theatre Royal Brighton for “Carnaby Street the Musical”. I wanted to be swept away on a tide of sharp suits, mini skirts and cool tunes, and I almost was… But something is lacking at the heart of this production and it feels like attention to detail.
Carl Leighton Pope, the Producer and Co-writer of the show was a major player on the 60’s music scene and co-wrote the piece as a semi autobiographical ode to his youth. Ironically however, there is not much in the evocation of his world that feels authentic. The characters are broadly sketched with little depth or humanity and the narrative is largely clichéd and predictable.
In the story, our hero “Jude” comes to London to seek his fortune, and armed with nothing more than a nice haircut and a dodgy Scouse accent, proceeds to become more famous than the Beatles on the strength of one song about a Transistor Radio. Everybody seems to fall in love with him (for reasons unbeknownst to me) and following his meteoric rise to fame and customary narcissistic outbursts we are left with the obligatory Shakespearian ‘coupling up’ at the end, followed by six song and dance routines.
Any attempt to weave the social reality of the times into the production is left to the archetypal poetic tramp ‘Al’, ably played by Gregory Clarke who wanders the stage, peppering the play with historical facts from the sixties. But as a device it feels tagged on, in a production that owes more to Austin Powers than the grimy truths from backstage at 90 Wardour St.
The cast actually do a sterling job of bringing the show to life and it is the vocal talents of the two leading female actors that really stand out. Tricia Adele-Turner is at times unconvincing as the Sloaney “Jane” but her sensual elegant voice is reminiscent of Karen Carpenter and Cilla Black. Equally, Aimie Atkinson as the little Scouse powerhouse ‘Penny’ is superb – when these two talented actresses belted out the big numbers the audience were captivated and I was reminded why I do love these songs.