Rudy's Rare Records

Critics' choice
Robert Day
'Rudy's Rare Records'

Lenny Henry stars in this benign, loveable stage version of the Radio 4 sitcom.

There’s a warm fuzzy glow emanating from this piece about a record store in Birmingham starring Lenny Henry. Much like Henry’s comedy, it’s funny, sweet, benign and it touches on pertinent issues, but doesn’t really rock any boats.

But, frankly, it doesn’t aim to. ‘Rudy’s Rare Records’, written by Danny Robins and co-created by Henry from a Radio 4 sitcom, is a loveable, nostalgic tribute to fast-disappearing record shops and quirky families. It follows Rudy’s divorced son Adam (Henry) who is back home to look after his ill record store-owning dad Rudy (Larrington Walker). Unpaid bills are stacking up and developers keep ringing with offers to buy the shop, but Rudy steadfastly refuses to let go of his little corner of real music magic. When Adam’s son Richie arrives back from university with troubling news, things get even worse. But with the help of a much-publicised gig to raise funds they quickly get better.

It’s a very witty script packed with one-liners and performed well by the stellar cast with Walker and Henry bouncing off each other gloriously. There’s a slight hamming up of their respective roles of stubborn Jamaican immigrant dad and middle-class first generation Brummie, but it’s done in such a good natured way, it’s easy to forgive. Lorna Gayle as Rudy’s formidable love interest Doreen and Joivan Wade as Richie are also both very strong.

Libby Watson’s detailed set beautifully evokes a musty, dusty record shop with packed shelves. Music winds in and out of Paulette Randall’s slick, rich production, from the live band – a group who practise in the shop’s small studio – to the songs sung by the whole cast. The second half is a little thin: it’s mainly a reggae gig (with Henry’s vocal chords impressing) where the plot’s loose ends are tied up a little too conveniently. Still, any show that ends on a storming rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Wonderful World, Beautiful People’ is something special.

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