Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

We’re already big fans of Standing at the Sky’s Edge – we caught the previous run at the National Theatre just over a year ago and awarded it a perfect score, describing it as “bold, beautiful and brilliant”. It went on to win last year’s Olivier Award for Best New Musical – deservedly so – and this week it has made its West End debut. With songs penned by former Pulp guitarist Richard Hawley and a hilariously witty booked written by Chris Bush, we’re pleased to report that this transfer to the Gillian Lynne Theatre is every bit as wonderful as the version we’d seen before.

It tells the story of the Grade II listed Park Hill estate which overlooks the city of Sheffield, which has recently been redeveloped. Within that housing estate we focus on one flat in particular, and three interwoven stories of various residents who lived in that apartment over a period of some 60 years.

In the early 1960s we meet the optimistic Rose and Harry (Rachael Wooding and Joel Harper-Jackson), with an idealistic view of what life will be like as some of the first to move into the new estate; next we have the tale of Joy and Jimmy (Elizabeth Ayodele and Samuel Jordan), who will need to overcome a series of barriers for their romance to progress; and bringing us almost up to the present day, we meet Poppy (Laura Pitt-Pulford), who has moved to the estate to escape her crazy ex in London and establish a new life in the recently-redeveloped – and gentrified – Park Hill.

It’s a brilliantly-observed social commentary that considers class, race, social mobility and gentrification. It’s full of wonderful details specific to Sheffield – with a whole scene involving a communal bottle of Henderson’s Relish being shared and enjoyed by the various residents over the decades – as well as a nod to local gay bar Dempsey’s and jokes about Sheffield’s football teams. There are also plenty of quips at the expense of middle-class Londoners, with Poppy desperately clinging on to her Ottolenghi recipes and her Ocado orders, as well as confessing a penchant for specialist gins.

So we’ve established it’s an intelligent and amusing show, but a musical would be nothing without great songs and performances – Standing at the Sky’s Edge really delivers here, too. Unsurprisingly given Richard Hawley’s background, his songs are evocative of various pop and rock bands from Sheffield over the last few decades. There’s a wonderfully old-school singer-songwriter vibe to the music here, and the orchestrations are superb. The songs are expertly delivered by the talented cast, often accompanied by some extremely effective choreography.

We could go on and on about Standing at the Sky’s Edge, but in a nutshell, it really just gets everything right – this is a musical that fires on all cylinders. It’s smart, it’s funny, the music is excellent and the cast is fantastic. It achieves a perfect balance: it lands some serious points, and not every story it tells is a happy one, yet we still left the theatre feeling uplifted and with a sense of optimism. This truly is a wonderful and joyous new musical – catch it while you can.

GAY TIMES gives Standing at the Sky’s Edge – 5/5

More information can be found here.