Now Is Good – a cheerful musical with a makeover at its heart | Musical comedies

Jhis father-son love story is decidedly sentimental. Even the program’s blurb brings tears to tears: Tim Firth writes about his father, Gordon, who died in 2018. Gordon was a watercolourist, manager, and “municipal landfill scavenger” (when it was still a legal business); he was also co-creator, with Tim, of the Bafta-winning television series Roger and the Rottentrolls. Gordon’s greatest talent was to discover the purpose of rejected and ignored things (and people). He is clearly the inspiration behind Ray (Jeff Rawle), the central character of this new musical, written and composed by Firth, whose successes on stage and on the big screen include Girls Calendar, The Flint Street Nativity and Naughty boots.

Ray is a builder, now retired and a widower. Her only child, Neil (Chris Hannon), is a health and safety officer. Their grand common purpose is the transformation of the abandoned local bank into a home – cue running disagreement over the danger tape joke: necessary (Neil); no need if you use your eyes (Ray). Firth’s text is underpinned by metaphors.

Work on the site (a glorious setting by Sara Perks) is interrupted by the people, young and old, whom Ray encourages to visit. Alice (Elizabeth Counsell), Ivy (Michele Dotrice) and Ted (Maxwell Hutcheon) are also retirees, each struggling in their own way with loneliness exacerbated by modern addiction to technology. Katy (Alyce Liburd) is a schoolteacher who tries to protect her students from joy-stifling educational dictates. As the building is redeveloped, so are the lives of its visitors.

It may be too sweet for some tastes, but I found it delicious. Firth’s upbeat Stéphane Grapelli/Hot Club-inspired score, arranged by George Francis and performed by an eight-piece orchestra, pairs perfectly with the actors’ impeccable deliveries and director Joyce Branagh’s orchestration of the action – a joyful celebration of creativity and connectedness.