Taking as its source the classic 1963 Cliff Richard movie, Summer Holiday is a feather light piece of escapism for all the family with a hard-working, talented cast and more than a few much-loved, familiar tunes.
It’s yet another miserable British summer, when Don and his fellow London bus mechanics persuade their bosses to let them borrow a double-decker bus to escape the grey skies. They set off for the south of France. On they way, they encounter a trio of female singers (the Do Re Mi’s) who have broken down on the way to a gig in Athens. Thrown into the mix is an American singing sensation (Barbara) disguised as a boy, on the run from her over-bearing mother and her agent. Cue some old-fashioned frolics and farce.
First turned into a stage musical in 1996, it has become a favourite of amateur dramatic societies up and down the UK, and as a work that’s fondly regarded by the great British public, it is ripe for a revamped professional tour. In order to ensure mass appeal, some of Cliff’s earliest releases have been shoe-horned into the song list along with those culled from the soundtrack of the movie. It must be said that there are more than a few that are pure filler, and unnecessarily extend the running time without adding much entertainment value, but for the most part the hit songs are a winner: Do You Wanna Dance, The Young Ones, Move It, Living Doll, Bachelor Boy and the famous title song get the audience on-side the moment the first bars ring out.
The energy level of the cast is critical in a work as lightweight as this, and thankfully they are giving their all. Their commitment to their roles is universally deserving of praise. In the ‘Cliff Richard’ role of Don, Ray Quinn is a hugely reliable, likeable and sure-footed leading man, he’s more than proved his chops in the singing department, but he’s also a gifted dancer. His trio of mates: Rory Maguire (Cyril), Billy Roberts (Steve) and especially the hugely talented Joe Goldie (Edwin) provide solid support, each singing, dancing, acting and breathing life into their roles with energy.
The Do Re Mi’s prove a likeable trio and Alice Baker (Alma) Laura Marie Benson (Angie) and especially Gabby Antrobus (Mimsie) do their best with the slim material they are given. Sophie Matthew is pleasant enough but unremarkable as Barbara and Becky Bassett as her mother Stella, is at least two decades too young to play the part.
Racky Plews choreography is as reliable and inventive as ever and is executed with precision and energy throughout. The scene to Move It in particular, is cleverly realised with ski poles and pairs of Heelys.
The minimal (read for that cheap looking) set doesn’t do much for the production, it is played out to a stark black background throughout which lends no sense of place, it is clear all the money has been spent on the realisation of the double decker bus, which is thankfully effective.
The script is weak and the characters are utterly two-dimensional, however, the fact that the cast are clearly giving their all makes up for the short-comings in the writing. The humour gets to the levels of mildly ‘seaside saucy’ and there are some lazy stereotypical ‘Johnny Foreigners’ replete with dodgy accents, if you’re being kind you could say it’s a hark back to a more innocent and simplistic time, less kindly you could call into question the taste/judgement levels of the production team. Criticism could also be made of an all-white cast in a musical in the UK in 2018.
It’s simplistic, it’s undemanding but it’s ultimately good old-fashioned, feel-good fun.
Runs until 3 November 2018 | Image: Contributed
This review was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub