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Sunshine on Leith
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds/Touring
JAMES BRINING has enjoyed his greatest commercial success as a director with Sunshine on Leith, the Scottish musical he conceived with playwright Stephen Greenhorn in 2007.
Since then there have been numerous tours of the production and a film adaptation and, while the political landscape may have changed considerably in the intervening years, the storyline, with its focus on three relationships, remains undated.
Jean and Rab are celebrating their 30th anniversary, their nurse daughter Liz and Ally are trying to rekindle their romance after he was demobbed and their son Davy, along with Yvonne, are in the first flush of love after being set up on a blind date.
Set to the songs of The Proclaimers, the story of a working-class family is more soap opera than traditional jukebox musical. Its characters face a lack of employment opportunities, a social club is the focus of the community, the NHS is being driven into the ground and people pull together when times get tough.
The Proclaimers' songs, rooted in early rock'n'roll and country, work surprisingly well at driving the simple plot and only occasionally feel forced into the constraints of the script.
Emily-Jane Boyle’s choreography is likewise unfussy, mostly comprised of line moves that make the most of a cast who largely lack natural rhythm or powerful musical voices.
There are minor updates — passing references to Brexit and Kanye West — and the moveable set, with its Irn Bru hoarding, could have been sponsored by VisitScotland.
But these somewhat hackneyed elements are lifted by an emotional connection built on universal themes and the sturdy live band banishes any traces of cynicism with a final, audience-pleasing rendition of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).
Runs until May 19, box office: wyp.org.uk, then tours until June 30 2018.
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