Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 15 October 2022.
Based upon the 2019 British comedy film, this entertaining tale of how a mature male singing group went from selling CDs to Cornish tourists to a top 10 gold certified debut album has landed in Newcastle.
Amanda Whittington has written a script that contains a generous number of the sea shanties that made the group popular and sticks to the movie's narrative. Whilst the poster claim that the story is based upon a true story, the word "based" is doing some heavy lifting. But do you know what...it doesn't matter. This is a fun feel-good story in which the underdog eventually triumphs. When the real world keeps delivering bad news then we need something positive.
Music A&R man Danny (Jason Langley) finds himself in Port Isaac - a fishing port in a remote part of Cornwall. After locking himself out of the B&B he pops into the nearby Golden Lion pub and discovers that a number of the regulars are happily singing traditional sea shanties. After deciding to sign them up to the major label that he used to work for he makes the group an offer. However, he struggles to win the confidence of the group who cannot share his vision.
Jim (James Gaddas), Jago (Robert Duncan), Leadville (Anton Stephens), Rowan (Dan Buckley) and the gang are people who all value friendship and community over fame and fortune. It is only when issues, such as the fact that the pub is under threat, that the some of the 'leaders' in the group start to consider working with Danny. But before that can happen they decide to see if Danny has sea legs and to take him out on a fishing trip.
A major feature of this musical is the music. The folk songs have wonderfully vocal arrangements. Some are sung a cappella - others are accompanied by the on stage musicians. The very live feel of the musical performances gives the show real energy. It was not a surprise when the Tuesday night audience rose to their feet to give an organic standing ovation in recognition of those achievements. The live band under co-musical directors James Findlay and James William-Pattison move around the stage and add to the overall choreography of some of the numbers.
Some of the numbers have been modified to fit in with the story and such changes feel natural within the context of what is happening. It is no different to a football crowd changing the lyrics of a song to get over a message.
The lads don’t hog all of the musical limelight as Danny’s love interest Alwyn gives Parisa Shahmir a chance to show her wonderful musical talents.
As the saying goes “nothing kills a show like too much exposition” and Amanda Whittington has edited out some of the movie’s finer details out - for example, it is never explained why London boy Danny has stumbled over this village.
Speaking to others in the audience who had not seen the film, they said that they did not feel that watching the movie beforehand would have enhanced their enjoyment of the show. In fact one person said that they don’t feel a need to see the film as the stage show had been so good.
Fisherman’s Friends - The Musical is a fun voyage that relies heavily on the quality of the ensemble and their ability to both act and sing together. It has a vibrant energy delivering an enjoyable comedy.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Pamela Raith
Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tuesday 11 – Saturday 15 October 20232. Tickets are priced from £15.00 and can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.