Fisherman's Friends

Based on the true story of a group of sea shanty singers from Port Isaac who had a meteoric rise to fame back in 2010 after signing a record deal with Island Records, Fisherman’s Friends The Musical is a breath of fresh air able to warm the coldest of hearts.

I must admit to loving a new musical.  I knew the story of the Fisherman’s Friends having seen both films and the musical is true to a mixture of both with the group ending up performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, quite the achievement from a band with a combined age of 560!

Most of the music in the musical is a cappella and it brings such a beautiful sound to the stage.  All the performers absolutely nail the many harmonies needed for the sea shanties, but there is also a very talented group of musicians playing such lesser-known instruments as accordions and even the spoons!  Under the musical direction of James Findlay and James William-Pattison, this band are the cherry on an already very delicious cake.

For those not familiar with the story, the musical starts with the men aboard their boat catching an array of sea creatures singing the first of many beautiful sea shanties.  Each and every song was performed perfectly, and the musical is packed to the rafters with them.  The sleepy fishing village of Port Isaac welcomes Danny (Jason Langley), a rather brash Londoner working in the music industry.  He hears the men performing one evening and makes it his quest to make them famous.  The band, headed up by Jim (James Gaddas) are very unsure at the start thinking that Danny is joking, but once they realise that it could actually work, they record a demo and the rest, as they say, is history.

There are many fantastic performances in this musical.  James Gaddas plays the rather grumpy Jim who is a single father still living in the past since his wife left.  His daughter Alwyn is played by Parisa Shahmir.  She has the most beautiful and haunting voice.  Her rendition of ‘Village By the Sea’, a song written specifically for the musical, really was a moment.  I must make mention of Wiggy played by Pete Gallagher.  Whenever he sang, I wanted to hear more and more.  He had a voice that was able to fully command the stage, and, in all honesty, I wanted to hear a full song from him alone.

Jim’s Father Jago (Robert Duncan) and Mother Maggie (Susan Penhaligon) played the loving couple extremely well and they certainly have on stage chemistry. Rowan played by Dan Buckley and his wife Sally (Hazel Monaghan) played the struggling young couple who had been left the local pub, but unable to cope with mounting bills and a new baby.  They were both superb in their roles.

As I mentioned, this musical is packed with tunes.  ‘John Kanaka’, ‘Cousin Jack’, ‘Sailor Ain’t a Sailor’ and of course ‘(What Shall We Do With The) Drunken Sailor’ were a few of my personal favourites and during the encore at the end of the show it was clear that the audience were itching to get up out of their seats to dance and clap along to the infectious music on stage.

At the heart of the musical the message is that friendship and community is important.  The power of music bringing people together for greater good and just enjoying each other’s company is also at the forefront of this show and perhaps lessons can be learnt in the current climate from this “boy band”.

So, head onto the high seas, tap your feet, clap your hands and enjoy Fisherman’s Friends The Musical which is playing at The Alexandra Theatre until the 17th September 2022.  Tickets are available here:

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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