We’ve been celebrating Mod culture for well over 50 years: the influence this movement has on music and fashion still prominent today. You only had to look at the Lambretta scooters outside the Manchester Opera House or take a look at the nifty threads some of the audience members were wearing to see how apparent this is. Clearly there is a great appetite for nostalgia and a trip down memory lane so it seems right that one of the leading lights of the Mod scene get the musical treatment.
The Small Faces were a seminal band during the mod movement, members Kenny Jones, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, and lead singer Steve Marriot formed the group in 1965, and went on to have chart success in the UK and the States: All or Nothing – The Mod Musical, not only charts the bands rise and fall but celebrates the music and culture of the swinging sixties.
The story opens with the bands demise at an infamous gig on New Year’s Eve at Alexandra Palace. It is here we are introduced to an older middle aged and tragically deceased incarnation of Marriot (Chris Simmons). Older Steve is our guide through the ups and downs of the band. Simmons is in full cheeky chappy cockney geezer mode, he is outstanding in the role of the beer socked narrator. His energy and enthusiasm shine through when the band is on the rise, which makes his decline all the more poignant, as we see the drink and drugs take hold.
Simmons performance is mirrored by Tim Edwards, who play the young Marriot, full of zest, but then with the wheels falling off begins to spiral into his own madness matching Simmons tortured performance. Edwards is ably supported by Joshua Dowen, Josh Maddison, and Drew-Levi Huntsman: fully encapsulating the spirit of being in a band, all talented musicians in their own right.
Carol Harrison, who plays Steve’s Mum also wrote and produced the production, a self confessed Mod this certainly is a love letter to this period in history; the story of success/failure being a well-worn path, the script certainly has more than enough pathos to keep you engaged. Despite the tragic tale at the heart of the production there are also some moments of comic brilliance, the sending up of Juke Box Jury and Top of the Pops being the highlights.
This is an ambitious production, which well matches its own lofty ambitions. From the offset the Small Faces back catalogue including All or Nothing and Tin Soldiers, as well as numbers by artists including Dusty Springfield and PP Arnold are performed with so much life and energy it’s difficult to single anyone for particular praise as they all work their socks off: however special praise must go to Daniel Beales and Russell Floyd who seem to relish playing the multiple roles done with great comic timing.
Overall this relatively new production has the right blend of humour and nostalgia to make for a fantastically fun night out. The show draws to a close with the cast performing a medley of The Small Faces greatest hits: which had the audience dancing in the aisles and a few lucky punters up on stage. The “Mod” culture was certainly alive and well at the Manchester Opera House tonight!
All or Nothing – The Mod Musical is at the Manchester Opera House till 22nd October.