Review: Fisherman’s Friends the Musical, Richmond Theatre

Fisherman’s Friends the Musical does exactly what you expect it to do, and more besides, at Richmond Theatre

“Put him in the scuppers with the lee rail under”

There’s something extraordinarily rousing about Fisherman’s Friends the Musical. As a piece of theatre, it doesn’t really hold many dramatic surprises, whether you’re familiar with the true story of the “buoy band” through their album or the charming film adaptation of their journey. But this theatrical adaptation with a book by Amanda Whittington captures so much of the spirit-lifting power of music that catapulted the Fisherman’s Friends to their success that the show is impossible to resist.

For the uninitiated, the Fisherman’s Friends are a group of Cornish fisherman from Port Isaac, renowned for their way with a sea shanty and when overheard by a visiting London record executive, find their way on an unlikely journey to a record deal and performance at Glastonbury. There’s challenges along the way as in any Britflick worth its sea salt but the real joy in this musical is how that music is suffused throughout its very core.

James Grieve’s production uses it in different ways. Naturally, there’s a large smattering of performance numbers, the shanties with which the group made their name, but there’s songs fleshed out into full-on folk-inspired musical theatre multi-part epics that swelled my heart with joy. Throw in others which have been seamlessly slotted into the narrative, such as the deeply sexy and seductive duet on ‘Sloop John B’, and the result is a musical firing on all cylinders, embracing its traditional nature.

It is helped by a hugely enthusiastic cast who appear to be having a whale of a time. Dominic Brewer and Parisa Shahmir are highly charismatic as the London lad and the local lass between whom romantic sparks must surely fly. James Gaddas is gruffly strong as her dad and keystone to the group and James William-Pattison’s musical direction keeps everything ship-shape. Huge amounts of fun and more than good enough to merit a season in the West End should a theatre open up.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Pamela Raith
Fisherman’s Friends the Musical is booking at Richmond Theatre until 4th March, then tours to the UK

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