Judging by the amount of scooters parked outside the Opera
House, many who had come along to the first night of the Manchester leg of the Quadrophenia tour were in search of nostalgia. But this production is by no means a literal adaptation of the film from 1979 starring Phil Daniels and Lesley Ash - and it's all the better for it.
This rock opera is set at the height of the mod era and focuses on the life of misunderstood, fashion conscious and music loving teenager Jimmy; a night owl determined to belong, whatever the cost. Essentially, it's a coming of age story set to the iconic music of The Who.
Jeff Young's adaptation does mean that some knowledge of the original album or film will aid your understanding of this stage version. There is no dialogue - the music speaks for itself - and, like a Matthew Bourne dance piece, the cast are reliant on non-verbal cues throughout. For some, this may prove irritating, but compared with a piece of jukebox musical dialogue, signalling yet another shoe-horned hit song, the music-only approach is to be welcomed.
To begin with, the arrival of four facets of Jimmy's personality is a bit too much to handle, as the characterisation early on is quite slim. But as the show progresses, you find yourself warming to each and every aspect of this character and all the actors acquit themselves very well.
The performer of the evening though is Sydney Rae White as 'the girl'. This young actress gives a mature performance, way beyond her years and her "Love Reign O'er Me" is a moving tour de force, making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Her stock role as Jimmy's girlfriend is underwritten but she brings depth and light and shade where there is sketchy detail.
Kevin Wathen also deserves a mention as The Godfather, as his vocal ability blows the roof off during many a number. The ensemble keep the action moving along at break-neck pace, ensuring this is one show that never outstays its welcome.
Sophie Khan's set design is very evocative and its corregated feel suits the narrative perfectly as Jimmy is a trapped character, determined to break free and enjoy his life.
Sure, there is too much angst and little plot development and some elements seem a tad dated today. But, the exuberance and enthusiasm of the cast displays raw talent at its finest - on a par with the cast of Spring Awakening - meaning that one leaves the theatre exhilarated and filled with admiration for both them and the classic tunes they sing.