Sunny Afternoon

Sunny Afternoon - Theatre Breaks

Sunny Afternoon – Theatre Breaks

Sunny Afternoon is the new musical based around the iconic 60s band the Kinks. It opens this month at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Written by the band’s front man Ray Davies this musical has been long awaited.

There was a false start a few years ago when Davies penned the rather wonderful, semi-autobiographical, Come Dancing. That was staged at the Theatre Royal Stratford East and I loved it so much I went twice! The show toured but without Davies fronting it as the narrator it just couldn’t earn its place in the West End.

Sunny Afternoon is quite a different proposition. Unlike the previous show this features the Kinks own music and tells the story of their rise from the early 1960s to the height of their fame in 1968. It follows as brothers Dave and Ray Davies come together to write their very first songs, find a name and a sound of their own.  It is an interesting and emotional story as the brothers sometimes difficult and tempestuous relationship is tested through the highs and lows of a 1960s pop career.

There are set pieces too where Kinks performances, like their famous Top of the Pops debut, are re-created. Few bands were ever as vibrant and electrifying live as the Kinks and the show’s young cast do a great job re-inventing that energy.

The list of hits in the show goes on and on and includes: Waterloo Sunset, You Really Got Me, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, This Time Tomorrow, Dead End Street, All Day and All of the Night, Days, Lola and of course, the iconic Sunny Afternoon. These are some of the best pop songs ever written and lend themselves really well to the musical format.

On a personal note:

I have to admit a certain amount of bias here. I love the Kinks! Their early music is full of power, drive and energy. I last saw them live in 1984. I was heavily pregnant at the time and I had expected them to play their more recent stuff, which I was very fond of, gentle, thoughtful songs like Muswell Hill Billy Boy and Everybody’s in Show Biz. The Kinks however, unexpectedly, decided to make that the night they re-created their earliest hits and rocked the Nottingham Playhouse to its core.  What a night! I gave birth less than a week later and I’ve always suspected my daughter’s love of pretty basic rock riffs was formed that night! B-)

Check our Readers Site for Sunny Afternoon Theatre Breaks

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Made in Dagenham The Musical

Made in Dagenham was a great film but can it really make a West End musical?

Made in Dagenham - Theatre Breaks

Made in Dagenham – Theatre Breaks

Made in Dagenham comes to the West End as a new musical comedy this month, (See earlier post New Musicals for Theatre Breaks October 2014).

Directed by  Rupert Goold (Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre, American Psycho, Oliver!, Enron). Inspired by a true story and based on the hit movie, with themes of friendship, love and the importance of fighting for equal rights, the show is quite unlike anything else in the West End right now. It is a true story and an important part of the equal rights struggle of the 1960s

Made in Dagenham The Story.

The story (book) is by Richard Bean (One Man, Two Guvnors, The Heretic, England People Very Nice)

Made in Dagenham - Theatre Breaks

Made in Dagenham – Theatre Breaks

It is starts in Essex 1968 as Rita O´Grady (Gemma Arterton) is  trying to get her husband out of bed, the kids off to school and get herself out to work at the factory on time.

When she gets there she hears that the ‘girls’ in the sewing room of Ford´s Dagenham car plant are to have their pay grade dropped to ´unskilled´.  Rita’s is infuriated and leads her friends in a battle against the might of Ford and the corruption of the Union supposed to protect them.

The women’s battle grows bigger than anyone could have imagined. Some crack under the pressure but  Rita is made of stronger stuff. She drives on to keep up the fight but starts to worry just how high a price she may have to pay.

Made in Dagenham – the Music

The music is by  David Arnold (James Bond series, Hot Fuzz, and Sherlock) with lyrics  by Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer The Opera, The Royal Opera´s Anna Nicole and Shoes at Sadler´s Wells).. It has a very sixties feel with lots of ensemble pieces. You can get a good idea of it from this extract on Sunday Night at the London Palladium:

Is it really a good candidate for a musical?

Well, it seems that the idea first came up when the film was being made and certain scenes seemed to lend themselves to a musical. I think that, like the film, the show does its best to respect the historic events it portrays. I also think it is a cracking story for a musical and we’ll all love it as much as we did the film!

Check our Readers Offer site for Made in Dagenham theatre breaks.

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Memphis the Musical

Memphis The Musical - Theatre Breaks

Memphis The Musical – Theatre Breaks

Memphis the Musical starts previews at the Shaftsbury Theatre in the West End this month (October 2014). I suggested it might be one of the best new musicals for theatre breaks coming up this month, a few days ago. Today I’m going to look at it in a bit more depth.

Memphis the Musical – where does it come from?

The show has a good pedigree, it was  a Broadway hit and ran there for three years. In 2010 it won 4 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.  It was originally written and had workshop performances back in 2003/4.

Memphis The Musical had some glowing notices during its Broadway run including this from The Associated Press:

“The exhilarating new musical shaking the Shubert Theatre is the very essence of what a Broadway musical should be.”

It was written by David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book). If David Bryan’s name seems familiar, he is the keyboard player of none other than rock legends, Bon Jovi. He’s written another musical as well (The Toxic Avenger), and is currently working on yet another one about life in the Brill Building, New York’s  early 60s song factory.

Memphis the Musical – The Cast

Leading lady Beverley Knight was last seen in the West End last year in lead role of Rachel Marron  in The Bodyguard. She got a great soul voice and a good track record.

Leading man will be played by Killian Donnelly, who until recently was playing Deco in The Commitments. Donnelly has also played Tony in Billy Elliot and several roles in Les Miserables.

The rest of the cast look strong too, and well able to give the show the power it will need.

Memphis the Musical – what’s the music like?

A high energy score

As you can see from the following video the musical has a really high energy score. Although all the music is original it has a strong 1950s flavour.

Memphis the Musical – What’s The Story?

Two second plot summary – White DJ meets and falls for black music, and a black girl singer, in the deep south of the 1950s. But it is nowhere near that simple!

Set in Tennessee, in the American south of the 1950s Memphis is the story of Huey Calhoun, a white, radio DJ who starts to listen to and play ‘black’ music on his radio show. (Huey’s story is loosely based in part on the true story of Dewey Phillips)

Huey champions the music, plays it on his ‘white’ radio station and his audience begins to appreciate the quality of this ignored music. The trouble really starts though, when Huey falls in love with  Felicia, a  beautiful black singer whose musical career he has been instrumental in promoting.

The plot twists and turns, with lots of emotions, laughter and tears. It is not at all as simple as ‘boy meets girl’, and all the better for that!

Memphis the Musical will be a good choice for a theatre break, I think. The West End theatre break audience took The Bodyguard to its heart and may well do the same with Memphis the Musical. Like all the best Broadway musicals the the show takes you on a big emotion filled journey.

Check our Readers Offers site for details of Memphis the Musical Theatre Breaks.

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Self Drive Theatre Breaks

Self Drive Theatre Breaks -why bother?

 Self Drive - Theatre Breaks

Self Drive – Theatre Breaks

Often when we think of theatre breaks we assume that you have to go by coach or rail. It seems odd that you can get a theatre break where you make your own travel arrangements. I mean, why would you bother with self drive theatre breaks?

Well, it turns out there are some very good reasons:

  1. The cost. Put simply the travel agencies, (like the one we work with, Omega) have such buying power that they can get a much cheaper deal on both the hotel rooms and the theatre tickets that you can on your own. Prices vary with dates but you can often get it down to as little as £99 each, sometimes less.
  2. Availability. Again, because of their size and their ability to block book the agencies have access to tickets for shows that appear to be ‘sold out’. If you want to be sure of getting Friday or Saturday night tickets for one of the ‘hot’ new shows this might be the best way.
  3. Central hotels. Often coach based theatre breaks mean you stay well outside the city centre. If you want the buzz of being right in the heart of the city then the self-drive option will usually provide that. Don’t turn your nose up at docklands hotels though. Some of them are lovely and travel into the centre of London is painless on the DLR.
  4. Freedom. Watching the clock and having to be somewhere at a specific time can really put a damper on your break. With self drive theatre breaks you can come and go as you please. Spend as much or as little time exploring the city as you like. So long as you are at your theatre 30 minutes before the show the rest of your weekend is up to you.
  5. Your Location! If you live somewhere a bit more remote that just isn’t convenient for coach or rail travel then self drive theatre breaks can be the best solution. If, like me, you live well away from the madding crowd then a theatre break might have to form part of a longer trip. If I’m going all the way to London I prefer to break my journey and fit in a night or two on route.
Tower Guoman Hotel, self drive theatre breaks

Tower Guoman Hotel, self drive theatre breaks

Top Tip

Park the car

When you arrive at your hotel, park the car in the hotel parking and leave it there. Some hotels do charge as much as £20 a day for this but it is worth it. No, really. There is no joy or pleasure to be had driving in  central London on a Friday or a Saturday. Use the tube or walk to your theatre.

Have a look at what’s available on our Readers Offer site where you will find fabulous Friday and Saturday  self drive theatre breaks.


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New Musicals For Theatre Breaks

New musicals for theatre breaks can seem a risky choice. We often want to stick to tried and tested favourites. However there are some good shows in the pipeline that are worth looking into for your next theatre break.

New Musicals October 2014

This month (October 2014) sees some interesting new arrivals in London theatres.  Over the next few post I’m going to look at each of them in depth. The new musicals this month are Memphis the Musical, The Scottsboro Boys, Sunny Afternoon and Made in Dagenham.

From October 9th at the Shaftesbury Theatre 

Based on a concept by George W. George. Book & lyrics by Joe DiPietro. Music & lyrics by David Bryan ( ex-Bon Jovi). This has an original score mixing gospel, rhythm & blues, and early rock ‘n’ roll with a more modern twist.

Set in the 50s Memphis follows the fictionalized life story of young, white radio disc jockey Huey Calhoon growing up in Tennessee at the birth of Rock and Roll.

Looks like a great choice for a theatre break with some really excellent music and a fine cast. The plot might be a little thin, but we will probably forgive it as the music and dancing look like they will more than make up for it.

Check dates and deals for Memphis the Musical on our Readers Offer site.

From 04 Oct 2014 at  the Garrick Theatre.
Music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, book by David Thompson This show has transferred from the Young Vic. It is at the Garrick for a limited run (closing Feb 2015).  It was a sell out at the Young Vic.
Set in the Deep South of America in 1931 The Scottsboro Boys is based on an infamous racism case and is a true story. Nine young black men were riding a freight train through Scottsboro, Alabama, when they were accused of the rape of two young white women.

This might be well worth seeing if you fancy a musical with a bit more plot and drama. Could be a good choice for a theatre break if you like your shows to have a bit more depth. It is currently available in our Readers Offers for New Year Theatre Breaks and looks very good value.



From 04 Oct 2014 at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Music and Lyrics by Ray Davies, Book by Joe Penhall, Original story by Ray Davies
At last we are getting the long-awaited Kinks musical. This has been on and off the cards for the last few years. Full of iconic songs and with a good, autobiographical story to tell Davies’ new musical looks like a winner. We already know he can write a good musical plot as he did just that for Come Dancing. Now he turns his attentions to one of the most influential bands of the 1960s.
We follow the story of the Kinks as they move from the conservative 1950s to the swinging London of the 1960s. This is the Kinks story and it explores the sometimes difficult relationship between the two brothers at the heart of the band.

An ideal theatre break choice for those of us old enough to remember the songs, or young enough to wish we’d lived through that exciting decade. Check availability on our Readers Offer site.


From 09 Oct 2014 at the Adelphi Theatre
Book by Richard Bean, music by David Arnold, lyrics by Richard Thomas. Based on the 2010 film but described as a re-working the musical will feature some new characters.

We are in the sixties again for this musical. Essex in 1968 to be precise. A group of female workers take on the bosses when their pay grade drops to ‘unskilled’. Rita O’Grady is one of the woman of the sewing room of Ford’s Dagenham car plant and she is not willing to just put up with it.

The show promises to be funny, touching and ultimately uplifting. A good choice for feel-good theatre breaks then.

Check for availability on our Readers Offer site

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