Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical, based on the true story of a group of Cornish fishermen who’ve been singing a cappella on the Platt (harbour) in St Isaac since 1995, is a triumph.
This is a love story to a world where men are men, and not IT consultants, and the women carry the day-to-day burden of life and death and everything in between, while pulling the pints.
We’re happily swept into this nostalgic world of marine machismo by the irresistible music and dance numbers, 29 in all, from the opening number ‘A Drop of Nelson’s Blood’ to the rousing ‘No Hopers, Jokers and Rogues’ to finish.
There are plenty of topical references to “emmets” (the necessary evil of the inundation of summer visitors), debt (the precarious situation of pubs everywhere), a lovely scene in a London gay bar, Padstow (nuff said) and much more.
But against all these odds, the musical (following two films and an ITV documentary) is a celebration of community and connection, just saved from sentimentality by plenty of tongue-and-cheek humour (yes, the group did take their name from the throat lozenges).
We were uncertain whether these actors could capture the feel of the “real” Fisherman’s Friends, but this company, lead by James Gaddas (the captain Jim) and Parisa Shahmir (Alwyn) were outstanding.
The performances and dance routines – the true stars of the show – are brilliantly performed by the whole company, full of energy and fun, and perfectly polished, without losing the warmth and joy of the original story, and we’re all included in the great party that’s taking place on stage.
Special mention to the musicians, who are also embedded in the story, playing some 22 instruments, and to the stage set, a brilliantly realised pub/ship/bar/life boat and harbour.
If you love Cornwall, great music, or a heart-warming story, you’re going to love this. FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS: THE MUSICAL is on at the New Theatre until Saturday. https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/fishermans-friends-the-musical/new-theatre-oxford/