Review by Charlotte Leamon
As an Australian, I did not know the experience I was about to embark on by walking into ‘Sunshine on Leith’, a Scottish musical created in 2007 by by Stephen Greenhorn. Through placing ‘The Proclaimers’ songs into the musical, it is (if put simply), a Scottish Mamma Mia.
I walked up many flights of stairs to find the theatre full of people waiting to see this truly Scottish musical by Captivate Theatre, which for many was a patriotic and heart warming story of their Scottish heritage and home. The story begins with two soldiers returning from war, named Ally and Davy. As they return, they discover that life isn’t as it was when they left. They return to Davy’s family, where Ally’s girlfriend Liz greets him first with a hug and a kiss, leaving her brother Davy comically left in the dark. From here, we meet Jean and Rab who are the parents of Liz and Davy. As Ally and Davy are welcomed back into civilian life, they try and get jobs and fit in once again but are halted several times. Through musical numbers such as, ‘I’m on My Way’, ‘Sky Takes the Soul’ and more, the audience was clapping and singing along to these world famous classic songs by ‘The Proclaimers’.
Eventually, Liz introduces her best friend Yvonne who work as nurses together to her brother Davy as she thinks they would make a good match. In a comic musical number, we see them meet at the pub and soon come to enjoy each others company and form a relationship. All soon goes downhill once Rab receives a letter from a young woman who is 27 years old, and claims to be his daughter. As her mother has died from cancer, she yearns a parental figure and was only told once she had died that he was her father. Rab now faces a dilemma, and an even larger dilemma when Jean accidentally finds the letter as Rab is singing ‘Oh Jean’ to her on an anniversary date celebrated by all. Jean is clearly upset, and begrudges Rab as he wants to spend time with his daughter. In the progression of the musical, multiple songs include dual scenes split between Ally and Liz and Davy and Yvonne. These splits include the breaking up of both the couples, as Ally attempts to propose to Liz and is rejected. Here, they both realise they want different things, where Ally wants to settle but Liz wants to explore the world. This leads to an acceptance letter to Florida where Liz can study, and where she sings the famous ‘Letter from America’ duet with her mother. Whilst Jean is still mad at Rab, he suffers from a blood clot and here ‘Sunshine on Leith’ is sung. The actress who played Jean gave a heart warming performance, with tears running down her face as she still sang flawlessly. The entire audience felt her hurt, and gave her a large round of applause as she ended. My favourite musical number titled, ‘Then I Met You’ was when Yvonne and Davy reconciled, as she was asking for reassurance that he would move with her to England if she had to look after her mother. Comically, he misunderstood and said, “just say it simply next time.”
The musical, of course…ended with ‘I’m Gonna be (500 Miles)’ which was no let down. This musical overall was beautifully directed and produced, with a stellar cast who have incredible voices and characterisations. The best, and most Scottish musical I have seen for a very long time!