West Yorkshire Playhouse – until Saturday 19th May 2018
Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood
Sunshine on Leith was conceived 11 years ago when James Brining, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Artistic Director, was Dundee Rep’s equivalent and the production had won the TMA Award for Best Musical. The musical, written by Stephen Greenhorn, is probably better known for the film, released in 2013, and reached a wider audience. The many film viewers can relate to the social themes explored and the familiar songs from The Proclaimers. This probably led to grounds as to why Brining and his creative team decide to bring Sunshine on Leith on stage again.
The story is about two friends, Davy (Steven Miller) and Ally (Paul-James Corrigan), who return to Leith after serving in the army and they are reunited with their family, friends and loved ones. On their journeys they et al. explore what home really is and define the meaning of life and love. Davy’s family and girlfriend, Yvonne (Jocasta Almgill), play a pivotal role in the story and how Rab (Phil McKee), Jean (Hilary Maclean) and Liz (Neshka Caplan) relate their life journeys with its ups and downs.
The musical is set to well known songs of The Proclaimers with the musical numbers fitting to each of the story’s scenes. The audience is familiar with the songs and is entertained from beginning to end including the purposeful I’m On My Way, entertaining Over and Done With and Oh Jean and the emotive Hate My Love For You.
The memorable numbers must be the final three hits; the title song Sunshine on Leith is sung movingly by Maclean (Jean) with deep felt conviction, Gill’s (Caplan) departure abroad in Letter from America, and the show stopping finale, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) which guarantees maximum participation from the audience with cast’s enthused encouragement.
The excellent live band on stage, some doubling up as the ensemble, compliments the down to earth staging, courtesy of Colin Richmond, where the space is well used for the different scenes and in between the smooth transitions. Tim Mitchell’s colour theme lighting must be admired and compliments the staging and costumes.
Sunshine on Leith is such a heartfelt and memorable performance. It is delivered from a very talented and exciting cast who sings and dance in synchronisation under the guidance of Emily-Jane Boyle whose first class choreography makes this show tick to perfection throughout. It is authentically Scottish with its performance, local references and identity embedded in.
The musical could not be more realistic and Brining confirms this musical is realistic not fantastical – it focuses on real lives of people, their joy and hardships, everyday life and how they define themselves relating to home, love, and family life. The songs from The Proclaimers echo the depth of this and humanity in general.
This production is unmissable and won’t probably ever be forgotten. It’s worth walking 500 Miles for a must see. Sunshine on Leith tours to six other cities including Scottish ones after its current run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.