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Review: All Or Nothing: The Mod Musical (Arts Theatre)

Carol Harrison's musical about Steve Marriott and his band Small Faces comes to the West End following a UK tour

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The cast of All or Nothing
© Phil Weedon

As a child in the East End of the 1960s, Carol Harrison was dazzled by the beauty and talent of a charismatic boy who once visited with her cousins.

He was Steve Marriott, who was later to form the Small Faces.

The crush formed that day has lasted a lifetime for Harrison, whose musical All Or Nothing tells the story of the late musician's four years with his hugely successful band. As writer, director, producer and star of the show, it's been a labour of love for her to get it to the stage. She's certainly been immensely thorough, involving Marriott's daughter and his former girlfriend PP Arnold in developing the musical.

Marriott died in tragic circumstances in 1991, so here he appears as a spirit-Steve (Chris Simmons), who narrates his own story and watches the past being acted out with a mix of pride in his own achievements, and exasperation at the mistakes that ended with the Small Faces disbanding.

The nervy, gritty young Steve is played by Samuel Pope with a powerful energy and impressive vocals that drive the show, and lift the musical numbers beyond tribute-band quality.

Yet although his older, wiser self offers plenty of explanations and justifications for Marriott's behaviour, it's difficult to fully engage with a character who appears so hell-bent on destroying his most important relationships. All Or Nothing also features some characters who tip close to caricature, and others who struggle to define their roles, which undermines its storytelling.

However, Stanton Wright brings insight and charm to Ronnie Lane, and the scene where Lane and Marriott admit how much they mean to each other is one of the most poignant. And when Kay Marriott (Harrison) mourns her lost son, the show takes on a new gravitas. But by this stage, it's really too little, too late in terms of dramatic impact.

Of course, it's the music that really matters, with hits like "Itchycoo Park", "Lazy Sunday" and "All or Nothing" guaranteed to bring latterday Mods to their feet.

Rebecca Brower's set catches the '60s Mod mix of optimism and cool, and costume designer Charlotte Espiner has done a great job in recreating the grooviness of the decade.

Daniel Beales is hugely entertaining in his cameos as Sonny Bono, David Jacobs and Tony Blackburn.

There is a whole lot of passion behind this production, and it's a fascinating insight into the band's history – not least the appalling way their crooked manager Don Arden left them penniless.

In the end it lies somewhere between all, and nothing, but the sheer brilliance of the Small Faces' compositions keeps the show alive.

All Or Nothing runs at the Arts Theatre until 11 March.