Carnaby Street: The Musical at Hackney Empire
After seeing Carnaby Street: The Musical, there is only one question that really needs answering: does it really take spectators back to the 60s, as promised? The answer, sadly, is not quite.
It’s a challenge to recreate the atmosphere of a bygone era in a biographical production, and this musical is no exception. A bunch of costumes (however faithful to the style that inspired them) and a series of anecdotes scattered throughout the show aren’t enough to revive the legendary decade and its impact on history. There is a general feeling that something is missing – a secret ingredient that would have made the musical spectacular and not merely somewhat enjoyable.
The story underpinning Carnaby Street is a rather ordinary one: we meet a couple of friends, Jude and Penny Lane, arriving in London with bags full of hopes and dreams at a time that seemed fertile for everyone. We follow their predictable adventures with other characters with similarly clever names (such as Arnold Layne), witnessing encounters that rise and restrain their desperate and naïve search for fame.
Nonetheless, Carnaby Street is a very pleasant musical to experience. The actors onstage give convincing performances, in spite of their somewhat stereotyped characters and the poor story they tell. The acting is not memorable but credible. Paul Hazel as Lily the Pink (a couturier and boutique owner) is remarkable, and Tricia Adele-Turner as Jane (the aristocrat turned rebel, and Jude’s love interest) sings Anyone Who Had a Heart with great emotion, apparently on the verge of tears. The several jokes and puns also contribute to the show’s success.
From a musical point of view, Carnaby Street is actually noteworthy: all the actors are outstanding singers (Verity Rushworth in particular has great vocal ability as Penny Lane), the songs that weave the story together are irresistibly enthralling big hits and above all, everything is played live. Although relatively inconspicuous, the band is truly important. Cunningly intertwined in the story, famous tracks such as Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood or Born to Be Wild will have the audience singing and clapping along in comprehensive nostalgia – particularly in the medley finale.
Photo: Roy Tan
Carnaby Street is at Hackney Empire until 14th April 2013. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.
Watch director Bob Tomson talk to the press at the launch of Carnaby Street: The Musical here: