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Thursday 18 May 2017

All Or Nothing: Star Of New Small Faces Musical Talks Ahead Of Brighton Show

They are the band responsible for a large part of the soundtrack of the Mod era and enjoyed a rollercoaster ride through the perils of the music world.

Now the story of The Small Faces is being immortalised in a new musical and we meet Chris Simmons, who takes on the role of the band"s troubled lead-singer Steve Marriott.

The Small Faces certainly packed a musical punch helping to give a generation of young people a voice and encouraging them to rebel against the stuffier side of Sixties society.

They also helped create and define a whole genre of music and fashion shaping Mod culture and being responsible for a host of big hits including Whatcha Gonna Do About It, Itchycoo Park, Tin Soldier and All Or Nothing.

And it is that latter song which is also the title of a gritty and edgy new musical which aims to recapture the era and tell the story of four ordinary working-class East End lads who become a pop phenomenon while also facing the perils of unscrupulous management, women, alcohol and drugs.

A huge hit in London the production is now heading to Theatre Royal Brighton as part of its second UK tour.

The production is a labour of love for its writer, co-producer (and one of its stars) Carol Harrison, a hugely-respected stage, film and TV actress who had known The Small Faces lead singer, the late Steve Marriott, since the age of eight and wanted to bring the story to the stage.


And it was an initial run of the show down on the South Coast which saw Chris Simmons come on board. 

Carol had secured Simon Rouse, best known as DCI Jack Meadows in The Bill, to play tough music manager Don Arden and Simon knew Chris from their time sharing the small-screen at Sun Hill nick in the popular police drama.

Chris, who played big-hearted CID officer Mickey Webb, saw the script and decided he had to be involved. 

"I read it and said to my agent," I have got to have this part." It sort of snowballed from there really. I fell in love with the way it was written, the narration, and I knew about Steve Marriott. It really is a wonderful, fantastic, ballsy, edgy, funny, dark, emotional piece and Carol"s writing is very funny." 


He takes on the role of the older Steve Marriot who acts as the narrator for the show taking the audience through the story as well as helping to map the life of his troubled character. 

"Steve is a bit Jekyll and Hyde. His energy is off the scale. My character also deteriorates in the second act which I have to plot carefully. It is the rise and fall of this band. 

"In the first half he is hyper and watches them make it before reality kicks in during the second act. The journey is fantastic. My character is the ghost. Nobody sees me or knows I am there. The only time I speak to anyone is at the end but I won"t give that away as it is a lovely touching scene."

While there is no doubting Chris's dedication, energy and passion for the project, he was also conscious that he was playing a real person and Steve's daughter Mollie was involved as a vocal coach. 

He said: "What is nice is that word got back to me in the interval at an early show that Mollie was watching and she thought I reminded her of her dad and had captured his essence. 

"I did a lot of reading and watched his interviews and performances but, in the end, you do the best you can. You just hold your breath and leap, so for Mollie to say that without having met her and spoken to her a couple of times, it was great."

Alongside Chris are four hugely-talented actor-musicians who play the band, Carol Harrison herself who plays Steve's mum Kay, and an ensemble cast who take on a wide range of parts from the band's unscrupulous manager Don Arden to assorted pop stars and presenters. 

"The four lads that play The Small Faces are great. There is no gimmick there. The four boys only had one week's rehearsal before us and they are incredible. They are all actor-musicians and they all capture the rawness of The Small Faces," said Chris.

It also works on two levels. For those who remember the Mod era, Chris says this is a great way to recapture those times. 

"The Mod audience have been great. They know every single thing about the era and all the references. We know when they are in.

"If you are just a normal Joe Bloggs like me and were not a Mod, it does not matter. The narration tells the story. The music is fantastic and I think people will love that and the story."

This latest role is about as far as you can get from Chris's best-known TV role in The Bill and is the latest challenge in his 20 year career. After finishing drama school and going travelling, he decided it was time to settle down and try to make acting his full-time job.

He recalled: "What The Butler Saw was one of my first jobs. I went to Nigeria to put on the play which was one of the most bizarre experiences. The Nigerian audience would throw things on the stage and shout and talk and, at first, I thought, what is happening? But that is their way of showing they appreciate it."

From there, he has done a wide range of work on stage at the likes of The Lyric Hammersmith and the Tristan Bates Theatre as well as roles in programmes like  Casualty, EastEnders, Holby City and Channel 5"s acclaimed police drama Suspects.

But it is All Or Nothing which is really enthusing him and he is looking forward to taking it around the country again. "This show has got balls, it has got edge and it doesn't go for the cheesy love story. It is about the boys and their journey."

Now he is issuing a rallying cry to people to come along, see it and enjoy it. "With my hand on my heart, I have not heard one negative thing about it from the audience, from the Mods and from my friends. They all say it is superb." 

Praise indeed for a show which is sure to recapture memories for some, and create lots of new ones for others.

All Or Nothing plays Theatre Royal Brighton from Monday 10th – Saturday 15th July 2017. CLICK HERE for more details.

by: Mike Cobley




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