The phrase Jukebox musical has become something of a derogatory term, for every hit such as Mama Mia there is a Desperately Seeking Susan or All The Fun of The Fair. The source material helps, if your songs are story lead there’s obviously a much stronger chance of them working in a dramatic format. Even given strong material though it’s a brave move for a group to allow their back catalogue to be used in this manner. For Craig and Charlie Reid, otherwise known as The Proclaimers though thankfully Sunshine On Leith can hold its own with the not just JukeBox musicals but in the wider musical genre. Sunshine on Leith turns out to be both epic and personal in a remarkable production.
As is the case with many of these shows there’s a love story driving the piece, in this case Leith residents Davy and Ally return from army service and try and rebuild their lives in Scotland. Both need to cope with the changes to the town since they left; the battle to find love and the ties that keep them in Leith.
Writer Stephen Greenhorn has woven The Proclaimers songs into this love story with great care, yes there are the inevitable contrived moments to fit a particular song in but on the whole the score could have been written especially for the stage show and not from past hits. The script also teases those familiar with Proclaimers music by giving a couple of red herrings where you expect a particular number to appear, only to be surprised with an alternative offering. The Reid brothers music soars, combing folk, rock and country with soaring ballads and enthusiastic ensemble numbers.
One of the true joys of the evening however is a collection of outstanding performances from a company obviously enjoying the material. Billy Boyd shakes off any Lord of The Rings memories and comes out with an impressive vocal performance though the highlight of the evening has to be Ann Louise Ross with her rendition of the title song, full of emotion and power in an arrangement that recognises the original version but adds a whole new dimension of its own. It is one of those numbers that defies even the most cynical audience member to keep a dry eye.
For an English audience the strong Scottish accents can take some getting used to and the ending does seem rushed but overall this is a wonderful evening of pure entertainment. Sunshine On Leith shows that with some thought the jukebox musical doesn’t have to be a genre to avoid, with a strong framework to hang the songs on and a talented cast it can be a true theatrical treat.