The latest in the long line of juke box musicals sees the story of Neil Sedaka played out in Laughter in the Rain. Set in the style of popular musicals such as Jersey Boys, Laughter focuses on the life and career of Sedaka which spans over 40 years.
Growing up in New York in a tiny apartment with his parents, sister and 3 aunts, Sedaka began training at the Julliard School however soon formed a dynamic song writing partnership with slightly geeky neighbour, Howard Greenfield. Soon the pair were writing hit records for artists such as Connie Francis and Sedaka began to have a successful career as a solo artist.
The British Invasion of the music charts in the 1960s saw Sedaka’s career nose dive and poor management by his mother and her boyfriend left him broke and in debt to the tax man. Picking himself up and moving to the UK where he had always remained popular saw his career take off again and with the help of artists such as Elton John, Sedaka remerged as an incredibly successful singer/song writer who is still writing and performing today.
The main problem with this piece is that Sedaka appears to be a genuinely nice guy. This means that there is not meat to the story and yes, there is the rags to riches success story and the financial problems but essentially there is not enough grit to the tale and this makes the story board weak. Think of recent biopics Walk The Line and Nowhere Boy and here, you do not get the grit that these tales have. However the music just keeps coming and the shear number of hit songs performed is impressive. This show serves as a great reminder of some of Sedaka’s greatest works and it is the hit songs that pull the audience in.
Wayne Smith as Sedaka cuts a very impressive male lead and his voice is faultless. The ensemble cast provide great support and Kieran Brown as Tony Christie almost brings the house down. However the biggest cheer of the evening is for Sedaka himself who took to the stage at the curtain call and seated at the piano played some of his greatest hits, much to the delight of the audience and proved that he is still s dynamic and polished performer.
Although not breaking any musical theatre boundaries; Laughter in the Rain is set to be a sure fire hit and surely a stint in the West End will follow the tour.