Carnaby Street - Carnaby Street Promotions Ltd and The Hackney Empire - 6th April 2013

cast includes Verity Rushworth and Aaron Sidwell

Director - Bob Thomson
Designer - Matthew Wright
Lighting - Nick Richings

If you are a child of the 60s and remember being there, then Carnaby Street could be a trip down memory lane for you. The ‘musical' is chock full of 60s songs including "Green, Green Grass of Home", "Sealed with a Kiss", "Bend me shape me", and "Downtown". The cast sing them well and the dancing is adequate.

If you are seeing this for the "story", then be warned. Jukebox musicals can be good as long as some effort is put into them. Here the songs were the priority, while the narrative was rushed together. It follows the typical story of wannabe star, Jude (Jonny Bower), and his rise to fame. Every plot point is manufactured or forced, and only serves to provide the slightest of links to the songs.

The cast do the best they can with such bland roles. Mark Pearce i the most interesting character as Wild Thing. A control freak, he is wary of Jude joining his band, although that tension between them is dropped eventually as he becomes an embarrassment to his fellow band players. Aimie Atkinson plays Penny, Jude's hapless friend who has to come to terms with the fact that he is in love with the alluring Jane, played by Tricia Adele-Turner.

As gay fashion designer Lily, Paul Hazel gives a madly flamboyant performance, while Hugo Harold-Harrison is the Simon Cowell of Carnaby Street as music producer Arnold. Aaron Sidewell felt unnecessary as Jude's manager, Jack. Based on the writer and producer of this musical, Carl Leighton-Pope, he takes up more space than the character that the story is following. Also unnecessary is Gregory Clarke as Al the newspaper man with weak jokes. His announcements of events from the 60s are nothing but padding.

In fact, padding is what Carnaby Street is all about. By definition this is not a musical but a nostalgia concert. The set itself is basic enough for the sole purpose of accommodating the band at the back. I can't even recommend this to 60s music lovers, because the artificial story you have to endure just sucks the life out of the songs. Do yourself a favour and avoid this.

David Jobson