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Based on the true story of Cornish band the Fisherman’s Friends, this musical tells the story of their rise to fame. As a group of fishermen singing traditional sea shanties, they decided to try to raise a bit of money for charity. From there, they may have predicted their rise to local stardom. However, it is unlikely any of them would have anticipated playing on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury or having a film made about them. We headed to Malvern Theatres for opening night of Fisherman’s Friends the Musical.
Fisherman’s Friends the Musical at Malvern Theatres: The story
Much like the film, Fisherman’s Friends the Musical focuses predominantly on the arrival of record promoter Danny in the Cornish village. Blown away by the sound of the Fisherman’s Friends singing their traditional sea shanties, Danny sets out to persuade them that they could have a hit record. Far from being wowed by the promises of fame and fortune, the “drinking group with a singing problem” laugh in Danny’s face at the suggestion.
The story follows Danny’s attempts to convince the men that his boss at Island Records will love their songs. An unsuccessful demo makes its way to the record company, who refuse to see the group. Not to be deterred, Danny tells the men that the record producer loved them, and they set out for London.
Whilst the trip to London is unsuccessful, it’s not long before videos of the gang go viral. The record producers decide to sign them after all and the album is produced. One of the band sadly dies before the album breaks into the charts. With some question over whether the band will sing again, their future hangs in the balance. Thankfully the promise of playing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury provides the inspiration needed for the rest of the show to play out with a happy ending.
A sub-plot of a love story between Danny and villager Alywyn dances along throughout the show. Played by Parisa Shahmir, Alywyn also has an exceptional voice and an interest in getting a recording contract.
Fisherman’s Friends the Musical at Malvern Theatres: The music
From the moment the cast burst onto the stage, upbeat, dramatic music plays throughout the show. As you would expect from a show about the Fisherman’s Friends, there was plenty of a cappella singing. Alongside this, various instruments were played on stage. Melodeons, fiddles, a cello, double bass and what we thought was a tin whistle all made an appearance. There was also a banjo, drum box and banjo and I’m sure there are instruments I’ve missed.
The story was told in a compelling and dramatic way with great use of the Fisherman’s Friends songs. Barely a moment went by where a song of some description wasn’t playing. Either as part of the story or as a baseline to speech. Would you enjoy the show if you weren’t into folk music? Absolutely. Whilst the music is the biggest part of the production, you can’t fail to be moved by the story itself.
If we’re honest, few of us would make it through that production without a foot tapping out the beat. You don’t have to love folk music to appreciate it. My girls enjoy the Fisherman’s Friends music, but it’s not really their sort of thing. Nonetheless, they were captivated by the show and jigging along to the music.
Fisherman’s Friends the Musical at Malvern Theatres: The cast
- Parisa Shahmir: Alwyn
- James Gaddas: Jim
- Robert Duncan: Jago
- Susan Penhaligon: Maggie
- Jason Langley: Danny (record promoter)
- Anton Stephans: Leadville
- Dan Buckley: Rowan
- Dakota Starr: Ben
- Pete Gallagher: Wiggie
- Hadrian Delacey: Archie
- Fia Houston-Hamilton: Leah
- Hazel Monaghan: Sally
- John O’Mahony: Eddy
- Louisa Beadel: Morwenna
- Becky Hurst: Grace
- James William-Pattison: Owen
- Musicians: Hazel Askew, Mel Biggs, and Alfie Gidley
- Musical Director: James Findlay
- Ensemble cast: Hazel Simmons, Janet Mooney, Dominic Brewer and Martin Carroll
Fisherman’s Friends the Musical at Malvern Theatres: The verdict
This show was an absolute joy from start to finish. With upbeat music and an inspiring true story, you can’t fail to enjoy it. We went along on opening night, a Tuesday evening in term time. Sometimes these midweek evenings can be a little quiet at the theatre. Not this time though, it was absolutely packed!
When the show finished, the audience gave them a standing ovation. Another rare occurrence for a Tuesday evening but well deserved. This is a high energy show with a gripping plot and rousing music. Not only would I recommend going to watch, but I’d happily go and see it again myself.
What you need to know
Tuesday 21st to Saturday 25th March 2023.
Tickets are available from the Malvern Theatres website.
Approximately two hours and 35 minutes including the interval.
I took my eight and ten year old along to watch the performance. They both sing, play instruments and take part in musical theatre productions so going to see something like this was quite inspirational and enlightening for them. Were there a few choice words in there that were less than suitable for their age? Absolutely. So, whilst that wouldn’t stop me from taking my girls, if you have younger children or don’t want them to hear swearing at all, it’s probably not for them. The 7.30 performance also finished quite late for a school night (10.10pm). Not something we would make a habit of, but not the end of the world as a one-off.