A complete guide to all the songs in 'Standing at the Sky's Edge'

Raise the roof with Richard Hawley's incredible songs in this British musical sensation by Chris Bush, now playing at London's Gillian Lynne Theatre.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

There’s a new Olivier Award-winning musical standing tall in the West End. Standing at the Sky’s Edge, which began in Sheffield and had a run at the National Theatre in 2023, is now right at home at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, telling the story of three generations of inhabitants at the Park Hill estate.

This funny, insightful, and deeply moving show features a brilliant book by Chris Bush and cleverly weaves in the songs of Sheffield’s own Richard Hawley, ingeniously arranged by Tom Deering. These soulful numbers beautifully express the characters’ feelings, from desire and yearning to loss and heartbreak, as well as shifting the mood.

Ahead of your visit to Robert Hastie’s unmissable production, get to know the score better with our guide to the incredible songs of Standing at the Sky’s Edge – and open up your door to this British musical triumph.

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“As the Dawn Breaks”

The show opens, appropriately enough, with a number all about beginnings. It also introduces us to how Hawley’s songs are going to be used: it’s started by a chorus member, then picked up by characters in each of the three time periods – working-class housewife Rose in 1960, immigrant teen Joy in 1989, and middle-class Londoner Poppy in 2015. All looking for a fresh start, they’re bound together by the music.

“Time Is”

This rocky, upbeat number is a great showcase for Jimmy – the local boy who charms Joy in the middle strand. It also speaks to the show’s wider themes about times changing and seizing the moment; Standing at the Sky’s Edge is brilliant at using music conceptually, as well as entertainingly.

“Naked in Pitsmoor”

Poppy pours out her heart to us with this apt Hawley ballad: “I left my life somewhere behind / My screwed-up eyes don't seem to shine / Since the day you said goodbye, I just don’t seem to try.” We gradually learn that she broke off her engagement to Nikki and is still struggling to recover.

“I’m Looking for Someone to Find Me”

This catchy, toe-tapping number once again unites various different characters in a shared emotion – from several fantastic ensemble members through to Rose and Poppy. The latter pair are in very different places at this point: Rose happily married to Harry, Poppy desperately alone. So Rose rides the cheerful tune while Poppy sings the more wistful line.

“Tonight the Streets Are Ours”

Joy longs for more freedom, to go out and explore the city with Jimmy – a feeling perfectly captured in this blissful number, led off by Joy’s sympathetic older cousin Marcus. That infectious spirit eventually expands out to the whole ensemble.

“Open Up Your Door”

Probably the standout number of the whole show, this is all about Poppy’s ex Nikki working up the courage to see her. After hearing earlier about Nikki’s toxicity, this irresistibly seductive, hugely powerful song is vital to show us the other side of the story. It also speaks to a wider point made by the show: that we have to open ourselves up to love and take a gamble, even if it feels scary, because it’s the people we care about who make a home.

“My Little Treasures”

It’s all going wrong in the oldest strand of the story. Harry, who was so proud to become the youngest ever foreman at his steelworks, is now facing strikes and unemployment with the election of Margaret Thatcher. It’s also an existential threat to his identity as a provider for his family – as he obliques expresses via this heart-rending track. Hawley’s reference to stars also makes us think of Rose and Harry’s son, who is obsessed with rocket ships.

“Coles Corner”

“I’m going downtown where there’s music!” cries Joy in this beautiful waltz-time track – her turn to pour her heart out, as she makes plans to finally be with Jimmy. “Maybe there’s someone waiting for me / With a smile and a flower in her hair.” It’s suffused with melancholy as well, though, because Jimmy has just told her he plans to move away to work on an oil rig.

“There’s a Storm-A-Comin’”

This Act I closer – as the title suggests – reflects the turbulence in all our characters’ lives as they try to make sense of their lives and make some big decisions. Hawley’s expressive song is powered by a stirring arrangement that uses the whole company and band to explosive effect.

“Standing at the Sky’s Edge”

We begin Act II in unforgettable fashion with the cast all standing at microphones, facing the audience – and totally rocking out to Hawley’s almighty title number. Again this is more about picking up the prevailing mood rather than just one particular plot point, and it does a fantastic job of that, reflecting these tough times (financially and psychologically) as well as the grit of our characters facing them.

“Our Darkness”

Standing at the Sky’s Edge is so clever at weaving together its personal and societal stories. Here the darkness is creeping into Rose and Jimmy’s marriage, as he succumbs to depression, but there’s also the darkness of Thatcher breaking the strikes and miners returning to the dangerous pits – all conveyed by this mournful number.

“Midnight Train”

This gorgeous song from Jimmy expresses the mix of emotions he’s going through. Yes, there’s drama galore in that plot strand too: his night with Joy resulted in an accidental pregnancy, upsetting his plan to get out of Sheffield and hers to become a doctor. But they also love each other and want to make their family work, even across the night shifts that keep them apart.

“For Your Lover Give Some Time”

Get the tissues ready. This song will wreck you – as will the section of the musical that (spoiler alert!) sees the deaths of two beloved characters. The first is the broken Harry, who sings what, in retrospect, feels almost like a suicide note, or at least a difficult goodbye. That sadness underlines a sweet reconciliation between Joy and Jimmy, too, prefiguring their tragedy, while Poppy and Nikki – still separated, but musically connected – join in at the end.

“After the Rain”

“This girl just can’t take it anymore.” If that last song didn’t get you, this one definitely will. Following Harry’s death, Rose works through all of her pain, grief, and rage in this stirring ballad, which takes us from shell-shocked tenderness through to a stormy fury and back again, and finally to a kind of hard-won catharsis.

“Don’t Get Hung Up in Your Soul”

Our narrator Connie – a character whose significance gradually becomes clear – leads off this impassioned number that sees everyone moving on in some way, whether it’s leaving the estate, letting go of a relationship, or starting anew. It’s also swooning enough to be the perfect backing music for the long-awaited romantic reunion of Poppy and Nikki.

“Finale / As Dawn Breaks (Reprise)”

So we come full circle: back to another dawn breaking over the Park Hill estate. Once again the company joins together, including for an absolutely gorgeous a cappella section, uniting all these characters – across the years, across class and racial barriers – in their hopes and dreams, love and loss, and yearning to find a place to call home.

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Photo credit: Standing at the Sky's Edge in the West End. (Photo courtesy of production)

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