After 2 years away from the stage due to Covid restrictions, Mid Cheshire Musical Theatre Company (MCMTC) invite audiences to Northwich Memorial Court for their much-awaited return, with the relatively new musical, ‘Sunshine on Leith’.
Having first toured in Scotland in 2007 and then adapted into a feature film in 2013, ‘Sunshine on Leith’ is the story of Ally and Davy, two soldiers, and their eager return to civilian life in their much-loved hometown of Edinburgh following a tour in Afghanistan. It is a tale of friendship and love and the obstacles that prevent Ally and Davy returning to a life that is not quite what it was before they left..
From the very beginning it was clear that a great deal of thought and effort had gone into the styling of the set through the projection (Simon Matthews) of images on stage. This created a wonderful backdrop from the very start of the show. The image of Ally and Davy on their way home from the war was an extremely moving opener and set the scene for the entire feel of the production.
Directed by Louise Colohan, there was a sense that this production meant a great deal to the entire cast as they returned to the stage after such a break. A special mention must go to Catherine Baddeley in her portrayal of Jean. Her performance of a loving and kind wife who could be equally angry and feisty was wonderful to watch. With warm velvety vocals and the ability to perform close harmonies it was clear all eyes were on her when she performed. She gave everything to her performance and her version of ‘Sunshine on Leith’ at her husband Rab’s bedside (Adrian Grace) was particularly poignant.
Although already very accomplished actors, Connor Ryan (Ally) and Myles Ryan (Davy) both performed their first shows with MCMTC’s ‘Sunshine on Leith’ and were outstanding to watch. They both demonstrated energy and an abundance of stage presence throughout the whole evening. They were the perfect pairing in their performance as the lead parts of Ally and Davey and totally believable as proud Scots.
With so many actors to mention it would be remiss not to mention Claire Bentley who played the role of Hazel, the straight-talking friend of Jean who enjoyed a drink (or three). She was amusing to watch in the pub scene, and it was hard to take your eyes away from her performance of ‘Should Have Been Loved’ with Jean and the cleaners.
Choreography from Liz Cardall was spot on, and the performance of the ensemble in a variety of scenes was excellent, particularly the pub scenes. Occasionally some of the actor’s vocals were quieter than at other times, but this could be put down to much movement on stage in many of the busier scenes with most of the cast on stage.
The band under the direction of Marilyn Blank must be applauded for what felt like delivering the continuity for the entire production. Sophie Smith’s performance on drums provided a feeling of ‘marching’ and added the emotion required for many scenes. Of course, with instantly recognisable hits by The Proclaimers it was clear that the songs themselves spoke to the audience as much as the spoken word. ‘Letter from America’ and ‘Sunshine on Leith’ were stand out. A very special ending to the show included the infamous ‘500 Miles’ and had an initially attentive yet ‘shy’ audience eventually clapping and singing along with full participation from the cast both on and off stage.
It must be acknowledged what a great achievement MCMTC have delivered on stage in this production. Challenges in relation to the pandemic meant that rehearsals as a ‘full’ cast could only commence from mid-July so MCMTC must be applauded on this achievement alone.
‘Sunshine on Leith’ is the perfect production to bring theatre back to eager Cheshire audiences. The timing is particularly poignant as after 2 years away this wonderful company brought everything they had to the stage.
Sunshine on Leith is on until 25th September at Memorial Court, Northwich. Tickets available from www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/cheshire/northwich-memorial-court/sunshine-on-leith
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 22nd September 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★