All or Nothing

Storeyhouse, Chester

www.storyhouse.com

All or Nothing

September 27-30

Touring until November 11

4*

I’ve actually been to Itchycoo Park – and remember it because that was in the 70s, not the 60s.

But there’s always been so much going on in the music industry, even great bands, even those with a huge influence, sometimes get forgotten.

To set the record straight is the aim of this musical about The Small Faces, and bound to be to be a number one hit. OK, the story is the same old, same old, and never happy ever after either: boys meet up to form a band, full of enthusiams, passion and talent, then lose it as they become more famous, more disillusioned and more ripped off. The last is what shakes you, but the tale rattles exhilariatingly along and obviously, it’s the role (so sorry) of the music which predominates. And how fantastic are the band: absolutely phenomenal as they belt out all the greatest hits.

This is indeed a tribute show, enhanced by the set design (Rebecca Brower) which colourfully captures the Swinging Sixties, fashion being damn as important as the music. However, the stereotypical ‘oop North’ scene jars, as do the frenzied female fans, even if the latter is perhaps more true to life. Nevetheless, it is lovingly and accurately detailed, especially the costumes, and exquisitely enhanced by a series of sparkling cameos: Melissa Harrison-Foreman as PP Arnold and Sophia Behn as Cher, Dusty Springfield etc. Plus Daniel Beales, spot on in every part, from Stanley Unwin to David Jacobs and Tony Blackburn, and as the downtrodden Mr Marriott.The villain of the piece is the notorious Don Arden, and Russell Floyd would scare the pants off anybody. Andrew Loog Oldham was probably nearly as bad though charming with it as played by Martin Teall, who is also the unfortunate Jimmy Winston, the keyboard player cast out from the band for amongst other things, being too tall.

It may come as a surprise that there is little in the way of the sympathy vote for Stevie Marriott himself (Samuel Pope). Volatile and narcissistic, he must sometimes have been a nightmare to work with so it’s a clever move to bring him back to life as it were as the Narrator, older and well, somewhat wiser. Chris Simmons ambles around the stage, commenting and occasionally joining in the songs. Meanwhile, the band dynamic as well as their music is wonderfully maintained with consummate skill and raucous vitality by the other three members, memorably Stanton Wright as Ronnie Lane, with Stefan Edwards as drummer Kenney Jones and Alexander Gold playing Ian McLagen.

It’s also surprising to learn that they disbanded after four years, if not so much so that Arden then brought in Rod Stewart as lead singer with Ron Woods as guitarist. And that they had only the one hit album, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake; that they were so young, just 18. More of a given: blokes who think they look cool really don’t, Vespa or no, and girls dancing on Top of the Pops and Ready Steady Go look weird these days, like stoned, uncoordinated marionettes. The other thing which doesn’t really seem to work is how the ending fades away as Kay Marriott (Carol Harrison) kind of hallucinates an emotional conversation with her son. That said, the final line is full of poignance, nor can you fault the after show party which had the whole theatre on its feet.

A first class evening’s entertainment, this musical is a must for all those who loved the Small Faces. And if you weren’t a fan – you soon will be.

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