Good Vibrations: The Punk Musical, Theatre Review, Belfast’s Grand Opera House, May 10th, 2023

By Conor O’Neill

The great, the good and many of questionable history were out in force as The Grand Opera House welcomed The Lyric Theatre’s production of the hit punk musical Good Vibrations. Based on the life of ‘The Godfather of Punk’ firebrand Terri Hooley, this musical first saw the light of day back in 2018 in The Lyric. Such was its success it’s now progressed to the biggest theatre in town.

Based loosely on the 2012 film of the same name – which I have yet to see – Good Vibrations boasts a well written plot with minimal scenery changes and a star-studded cast living life in a divided country at the height of Northern Ireland’s Troubles of the 1970s. The soundtrack to this show is as fantastic as it is versatile. Well, it would be impossible not to having a cracking line-up for this gig. If nothing else Hooley represents the force of music to overcome any divide.

Glen Wallace (Coronation Street, EastEnders, Hollyoaks) plays Terri, the lovable rogue who catches the eye of Ruth Carr (Jayne Wisener) and what’s interesting through out the show is the united and divided love story at the heart of this punk-music-fest.

12 actors play 30 plus characters, with only Wallace and Wisener (pictured above) single-rolling it. One of the many strengths of this musical is the collective ability of its actors to slip from record company executive to a nun, from Polly the Punk (pictured below) to a BBC receptionist. These qualities are personified in seasoned Belfast pro Marty Maguire which sees him leap from Hooley’s trade unionist father George to an RUC officer with a chip on his shoulder, to an Orangeman and then a squaddie. Maguire, as with all the other supporting actors, makes these changes seamlessly, and all the characters are needed in this multi-layered plot.

Over two acts lasting roughly an hour and five minutes a piece Good Vibrations sees the stage-play, cowritten by Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson, sees Hooley as he opens the record shop, the the record label and studio all the while trying to balance the life of a music impresario and devoted hubby and father. Not surprisingly something’s gotta give.

Grace Smart’s set is simple yet effective. With a few changes it moves from the Hooley family home to the record shop, the Ulster Hall and record label headquarters in London, to name just a few. Gillian Lennox’s costumes are another medal on the show’s chest.

As expected many of the actors double up again as talented musicians in their own right. Under the guidance of musical director, composer and arranger, Kate Richardson, audiences can expect everything from Hank Williams’ I Saw The Light to the Shangri-Las’ Past Present And Future to The Jam’s In The City and of course multiple tracks from Northern Ireland’s ounk bands including Rudi, The Outcasts and of course the song synonymous with NI punk The Undertones Teenage Kicks.

A riot of a musical. Perfect from start to finish. Double encore well won and befitting.

To quote Hooley himself: “New York has the haircuts, London has the trousers, but Belfast has the reasons.”

Good Vibrations runs at the Grand Opera House up to and including May 20th. For times and booking details visit or simply phone the box office on 02890 241919.

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