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All or Nothing The Musical

Poole Lighthouse 16 June 2017

It’s 50 years since the “Summer of Love” and the feel of the year was revived at the Lighthouse in Poole with the arrival of All or Nothing The Small Faces Musical. Now in its second year of touring the country, All or Nothing tells the story of the Small Faces and, in particular, their guitarist and lead singer Steve Marriott.

The musical was written and directed by Carol Harrison who will be well-known to Eastenders fans as Louise Raymond. Having grown up in the same area of London as Marriott and having met him as a child she is well-placed to add authenticity to the script. She plays the part of Steve’s mum Kay and the relationship between them is one of the key elements of the musical. The “narrator” is the older Steve Marriott looking back on his life. He is played by Chris Simmons whose portrayal of Marriott is unbelievably accurate, so much so that he appears to become more and more intoxicated as the evening progresses. A wonderful piece of acting, at least we think he was acting! His final scene with Kay is very moving and he picks up a guitar and plays the Small Faces’ only number 1 hit All or Nothing.

Of course, the Small Faces are at the centre of the musical. The young actors/musicians are new to the tour this year and they put in a phenomenal performance capturing not only the quality of the songs that they played live but also the character and mannerisms of the group’s members. Their musicianship is outstanding as they played many songs from the incredible Small Faces catalogue. Alongside the well-known hits there were also LP tracks such as Rollin’ Over and Happiness Stan. The songs help to illustrate the stories but they are worth the admission on their own as the band play them so well. Here is where another key relationship of Marriott’s unfolds. The Small Faces were formed following Steve meeting up with Ronnie Lane. They developed the band around their shared love of black American R&B music and they became one of the top songwriting partnerships of the 1960s with a stream of hits that still sound fresh today. However, as Marriott’s ego starts to take over his life and his personality and when Lane develops an interest in spirituality they almost come to blows. To quote Marriott, “you’ve been hanging around with (Pete) Townshend too much!”

The other members of the cast appear in different roles as the story develops. Joseph Peters puts in a fine performance as the Small Faces’ original keyboard player Jimmy Winston. Russell Floyd is a very believable Don Arden, the Al Capone of pop. Daniele Beales’ parts include Sonny Bono and he generates a huge cheer from the audience when he masters Stanley Unwin’s goobledegook introduction to Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake – “Are you all sitting comfybubble two square on your bottom? Then we’ll begin”.

To Small Faces aficionados the scenes and cameos that make up the story of the musical will be well-known. They show the extraordinary level of detail that is included as the highlights and lowlights from the band’s life are played out. You see Don Arden holding Robert Stigwood out of a high window to stop him stealing the band, being chucked out of a Northern club, upsetting the neighbours in Westmoreland Terrace, Marriott lusting after Rod Stewart’s girlfriend, Johnny Stewart (Floyd) banning the Small Faces from Top of the Pops following a foul-mouthed rant by Marriott, the dope-fuelled signing of the Immediate Records contract, Marriott’s first meeting with PP Arnold. The American singer loved the song Marriott wrote for her so much that he kept it for the Small Faces but she did join them to sing on Afterglow (Of Your Love) and Tin Soldier. For those who were unaware the withholding of royalties by managers and record companies meant that the band may have achieved massive-selling singles and LPs but they remained on a small weekly wage.

The fashions change throughout the show. The Small Faces were Mods who became a band, unlike the Who, and Jimmy Winston was certainly a snappy dresser. By 1967, the group was in full psychedelic garb with velvet trousers and flowery jackets. The support cast also showcased the fashions at the time. The modette dancers were perfectly turned out (Love Her Madly) and added atmosphere to the songs and “TV” appearances.

Look out for cameos throughout the musical. You will see Dusty Springfield, Sonny & Cher, David Jacobs, Rod Stewart, Andrew Loog-Oldham, Peter Frampton, Cathy McGowan and more.

This is a wonderful show with an excellent cast. What’s more, it is clear that the actors are not only working but they are thoroughly enjoying the show and with such great songs as the backdrop how can they not do so? The show finished with a standing ovation and the audience dancing in the aisles as the band reprised some of the songs. Yes, it was all too beautiful. Marriott’s ego and drinking/drug taking had contributed to set him apart from the other Small Faces and he walked off the stage at Alexandra Palace New Year’s Eve 1968. He did team up with Peter Frampton to form Humble Pie while the other Small Faces formed the Faces. As the older Marriott remarked, he did get Rod’s girl but Rod got his band. Steve Marriott was one of our greatest singers and songwriters but his descent is a very sad story. He died in a fire at his home in 1991. Ronnie Lane contracted multiple sclerosis. Ian McLagan died of a stroke in 2014. Marriott and Lane never received their royalties during their lifetime.

Photo: All or Nothing The Musical

Photo: All or Nothing The Musical

Links 2018 Tour Dates
  • 6 February - 11 March - Arts Theatre, London.
  • 28 March - 2 June - Ambassadors Theatre, London

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