Lockdown musicals: the jukebox

Welcome to the first in a series looking back at the musical shows made available to watch online during this year’s enforced closure of theatreland.

I thought the best way of doing this was putting them together in categories to give a flavour of the creativity on show – and of course, highlighting where you can donate to the companies and performers involved.

Without more ado, the two musicals I will be looking at today are both of the jukebox/biopic variety.

All or Nothing poster image

All or Nothing: the Mod Musical presents the story of Steve Marriott (1947-1991) and the music of The Small Faces. Written and directed by Carol Harrison, who also plays Steve’s mum, it was filmed live at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End in 2018.

Reasons to be Cheerful showcases the life philosophy and music of Ian Dury (1942-2000) and the Blockheads, and was performed by Graeae Theatre Company at Theatre Royal Stratford East in 2017. Written by Paul Sirett and directed by Jenny Sealey, the performance features captioned dialogue, BSL interpretation and audio description. John Kelly provides lead vocals.

I found both musicals took the time to delve deeply into their subjects, especially All or Nothing with its double casting of Marriott as a more reflective older man and his younger firebrand self. For Reasons to be Cheerful, the songs are key to the story of a musician who overcame polio to hit the big time.

Reasons to be Cheerful poster image

Both were inspired choices to make available during an uncertain pandemic: with music that entertains and uplifts alongside stories of triumph over adversity. As archive recordings, they were never meant to be shown more widely and so lack a touch of professional gloss, but both hit the spot during their time online.

All or Nothing was streamed online for NHS Charities Together: donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/friendsofallornothing.

Reasons to be Cheerful was streamed by Graeae and Belgrade Theatre Coventry. To donate to Graeae: https://graeae.org/your-support/ways-to-support/ and to Belgrade Theatre: https://www.belgrade.co.uk/support/donate-to-us/.