If you are clapping your hands and tapping your feet to a sea shanty Fisherman’s Friends – The Musical is the show for you and it sails into Milton Keynes Theatre this week. You will be sea swept along with the tunes, the story and the love. Fisherman’s Friends is based on the true story of the Cornish singing sensations, Fisherman’s Friends, and the hit 2019 film about their life.
The story is clearly set in Cornwall, in a tiny town called Port Isaac that doesn’t even have WIFI and it’s hard to get a signal on your mobile phone. It’s a love story – of young love, of old love, of traditions and of the sea shanties. Alwyn (Parisa Shahmir) is a Cornish lass who loves her life in Cornwall. Her Dad, Jim (James Gaddas) is a fisherman as is her grandad Jago (Robert Duncan). The life of a Fisherman runs through her blood. So, when a Londoner, land lubber, Danny (Jason Langley) meets her, she tells herself she isn’t interested in him. But Danny not only falls for Alwyn, he falls in love with Cornwall and the Fisherman who live there. The show is overflowing with feel-good factor.
Parisa Shahmir as Alwyn is beautifully cast, her voice is so perfect it is like a mermaid calling you. She feels so natural in the role, Cornish accent included. Jason Langley is excellent as record producer Danny; he has an air of arrogance but soon shows he is actually looking for a community to accept him. Meanwhile the Golden Lion pub that has been there for generations is in financial difficulty. Poor Rowan (Dan Buckley) is struggling to make ends meet, especially now his wife has had a baby.
James Gaddas as Jim, leads the fishermen into all sorts of rough waters when agreeing to travel to London to see a record label mogul under Danny’s guidance. There is mayhem along the way as they end up in a gay bar – one of my favourite scenes. The mogul may not initially want to take on this motley crew. But social media is on their side and when she realises the amount of hits the videos of the fishermen are getting – well it would be stupid to say no to something that could make the top 10!
There is a touching moment between dad, Jim and daughter, Alwyn, (James and Parisa) when they finally talk about her mum/his wife leaving them and the impact it had on them both. This was a very poignant moment and I just wanted to hug them both. This exceptional cast oozes talent out of every pore. Other performers include Susan Penhaligon (Maggie) Anton Stephans (Leadville), Pete Gallagher (Wiggy), Hazel Askew (Ann), and Hadrian Delacey (Archie). One of the things you notice about this fantastic show is the diverse range of ages in the show. It’s refreshing to see actors over 50 as main characters and know we were in for some quality acting from the veterans of stage and screen.
Sea Shanties have been around for hundreds of years but are currently enjoying a resurgence. Fisherman’s Friends features hit shanties including Keep Haulin’, Nelson's Blood, No Hopers Jokers & Rogues and I even recognised South Australia from my childhood as The Seekers had recorded a version of this song. The draw of this show is the music. You will be humming as you leave the theatre. Sea Shanties is a style of music that make you feel you can sing – but no one sings them as well as the cast who are all exceptional.