Musicals that revive the popular music of previous generations are naturally nostalgic, often featuring a coming-of-age theme; Graeae and The New Wolsey Theatre's production of Reasons to be Cheerful is no exception to these conventions, but unlike the frothy Mamma Mia or the abysmal Our House, it packs a hefty punch.
We join the cast as they recreate the story of Vinnie (Stephen Lloyd) growing up in Thatcher's Britain with his loving Mum (Karen Spicer) and his terminally ill Dad (Garry Robson). Vinnie works at a local supermarket with his affable mate Colin (Stephen Collins) enduring the daily tyranny of his obnoxious, Tory boss (Daniel McGowan) while daydreaming of his feisty co-worker Janine (Nadia Albina).
Paul Sirett's script is awash with witty punk spirit and Ian Dury and The Blockheads' songs soar with fresh meaning and raw power. The entire cast and band are truly excellent with sublime lead vocals provided by John Kelly.
The production is signed throughout and this ingeniously forms part of the energetic choreography. Such exuberance means that each and every one of Ian Dury's incredibly catchy songs (all the greats are here from the once banned Spasticus Autisticus, to the bondage-tinged Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick) are infused with infectious energy and genuine emotion, which makes this production a rare and delicious treat.
I was intrigued to see how the cast and crew would bring such a concept to the stage, so when I experienced how completely and utterly brilliant this musical is, you could have knocked me down with a feather!
Go and see it and be cheerful. Oi, oi!