Fisherman's Friends The Musical

"A story of complete joy, friendship, incredible music and a wonderful sense of community"

Having seen this show last year and falling in love with its infectious nature, I knew I had to catch it again and it really did cement the fact that this could be my favourite new musical!

Fisherman’s Friends The Musical charts the rise to fame of the oldest boy band in Port Isaac, Cornwall.  A true story which has garnered many fans, and which has two films to its name. There is nothing not to love about how this story makes you feel as you leave the theatre.  It’s a story of complete joy, friendship, incredible music and a wonderful sense of community.

This show is a complete ensemble piece, the stage filled with musicians who take front and centre stage showcasing their incredible talent under the musical direction of James William-Pattison.  Each time the band strikes up it gives me goosebumps as the sound created is toe tapping and hand clapping, extremely infectious. 

Leading the band is Jim (James Gaddas) a rather grumpy fisherman who is very attached to his beloved Cornwall, his friends and the local pub, the Golden Lion. His wife had left him and his daughter Alwyn (Parisa Shahmir) years earlier and he is still very bitter but finds happiness singing sea shanties with his closest friends.  Gaddas gives a polished performance with his gravelly Cornish accent.  Shahmir as Alwyn really does have the standout voice of the evening, with somewhat of a haunting sound with exquisite sound design from Dan Samson.  Her voice fills the theatre and has a real calming effect when stripped back from the rest of the high energy numbers.

If you’re familiar with the Fisherman’s Friends, then you will have heard the many sea shanties they perform.  The overall sound from the band was captivating, with the acapella numbers really being the star.  The harmonies were so gorgeous you were literally bathing in their splendour. Stand out voices come from Pete Gallagher (Leadville) and Hadrian Delacey (Archie).  A pure treat for the ears!

The instigator of the bands success comes from Danny (Jason Langley) a failed music producer who is still out to find the next big thing.  There were many funny moments upon meeting the patrons of the Golden Lion pub and he was very much treated like an outsider at first. It was lovely to see how their friendship blossomed and how he was accepted into the tight knit community. Langley played the rather brash Londoner well, and there was wonderful chemistry between him and Parisa Shahmir (Alwyn) who establish a relationship, after a very rocky start.

There are some great scenes in the show, including a trip to the bright lights of London where the band find themselves in a gay bar.  The up-to-date references are also front and centre especially when some of the band start singing ‘Wellerman’ and Jim comments “that song will never catch on”, of course a reference to the very successful version of this song that appeared online.

The set by Lucy Osborne has us first on board the fishing vessel, out on the high seas with the Fisherman carrying out their “day job”.  This is then wheeled away, and we are inside the Golden Lion pub where the majority of the action happens.  When the musicians are not intermingled with the rest of the cast, they stand around the top of the set.  This upper half of the set was used throughout as an entrance/exit point for many characters.  The lighting design by Johanna Town came into its own during the darker scene where unfortunately Jim’s Dad Jago (Robert Duncan) suffers a heart attack whilst out at sea.  The use of hand held spotlights really captured the moment.

There are many reasons why you should try and see this show before it sets sail for the last time.  If nothing else, the music will have you shuffling in your seat, tapping your feet and singing as you leave.  Under the Direction of James Grieve this new musical has legs to run and run, and a West End transfer wouldn’t be out of the question (I hope so anyway!).  There is power in friendship and community and you absolutely feel part of the Fisherman’s Friends by the end of the show.  The love and respect they have for each other is certainly a lesson a lot of us should take on board.

This show was reviewed at the Festival Theatre, Malvern on the 21st March 2023.  It runs there until the 25th March 2023.  Tickets available here: Fisherman's Friends: The Musical - Malvern Theatres (malvern-theatres.co.uk)

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