‘Properly entertaining evening of innocent fun’: SUMMER HOLIDAY: THE MUSICAL – Touring ★★★

In Musicals, Opinion, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland, Touring by Thom DibdinLeave a Comment

Touring – reviewed at Edinburgh Playhouse

It was all froth and fun at the Playhouse as Summer Holiday’s big red London double-decker bus rumbled in for a spot of all-singing, all-dancing sixties entertainment.

And if Ray Quinn doesn’t have Cliff Richard’s puppy-dog earnestness from the original film – nor, indeed, the honey-coated tonsils – he certainly has adequate moves and can cut it in the heart-throb stakes.

This is the story of a quartet of London bus mechanics who borrow a bus from their employers and drive it off for a fortnight’s holiday in southern France. They pick up a trio of wannabe singers on their way to Athens – and an American teen singing sensation, running away from her domineering mother.

With only a few minor detours in the specifics, this follows the same roadmap as the 1963 movie. Although Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan’s 1990s stage adaptation cannily adds a few Cliff Richard songs from a similar era, mostly from his previous movie, The Young Ones.

Director and choreographer Racky Plews knows a good thing when she sees it, and ensures that this is played absolutely straight – in most senses of the word. It’s all good clean innocent fun on the bus – this is before sexual intercourse was invented (according to Philip Larkin) and the sixties had yet to swing. So plenty of saucy outfits for grandad to salivate over and nothing to challenge the all-white heteronormative mould.

Plews has a great cast and ensemble to play with, though. There are a few slightly slap-dash moments when it comes to drilled precision in some of the early routines, but that’s because all the way the down the cast, they are playing it for the fun of it.

The Brookside veteran, Dancing on Ice winner and X-Factor finalist Ray Quinn, who has turned his arm to singing, knows how to dominate a stage and he casts a big shadow as Don, the driving force of the four friends.

Billy Roberts as cocky Steve and Rory Maguire as daffy Cyril both put in excellent comic turns. But it is Joe Goldie as nerdy Edwin who is the real stand-out. He has a great voice, lovely comic timing and an almost double-jointed pelvis when he leads the Act Two opener Move It – skiing in on Heelys.

There’s oodles of bounce and attitude to the Do Re Mi’s, the trio of girls off to make their fortune singing in an Athens nightclub. Even if the script does not give them a lot characterisation to get their performing teeth into, they keep the whole thing alive thanks to their interaction with the lads from Let Us Take You For A Ride on in.

fun and entanglements

Laura Marie Benson has just the right attitude as bossy Angie, you’d swear that Alice Baker was a naturally inept dancer as Alma in the trio’s deliciously choreographed routines and when Gabby Antrobus steps forward for her solos as out-of-reach Mimsie, she proves that she has a lot more than side-kick material going for her.

Alice Baker, Laura Marie Benson and Gabby Antrobus. Pic: Summer Holiday production.

The fun and entanglements are changed slightly on the bus when they discover a stowaway boy on board – who is of course pop sensation Barbara with a cap on. Sophie Matthew has a great voice to carry off the pop credentials and does a superb job on Constantly, being filmed in a TV studio and being so upstaged by her dancers that she ultimately walks out on her unfeeling mum, Stella and agent, Jerry.

Matthew’s interaction with Quinn is excellent – Bachelor Boy and its build up in the shower scene is very well judged, while her sense of space and pace in A Swinging Affair gives a real piquancy and emotional heft to the song.

In this hugely English musical – it’s cut-glass accents all the way for the English lads and lasses and the most cliched Johnny Foreigner-type accents for any continental Europeans – it is the Americans who get to be the baddies.

Taryn Sudding does a fair enough job as Stella, without ever reaching levels of Cruella de Vil viciousness. That is partly to make room for Bobby Crush as her put-upon side kick and agent, Jerry, who gets to have it both ways as the redeemable villain.

always good to watch

Crush is always good to watch, but his laughs come cheaply and you can’t help but feel he has a lot more offer, even is he does have a fine pineapple suit for the finale.

Any production of Summer Holiday will be judged to some extent on its bus. While Steve Howell’s set is very basic, the bus itself is more functional than many. It revolves to reveal a cut-away inside and looms effectively out of the picture-postcard surround.

A properly entertaining evening of innocent fun, pitched at a level which remembers the old days as being good but without ever indicating they would be worth going back to.

Running time: two hours and 20 minutes (including one interval).
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA. Phone booking: 0844 871 3014
Tuesday 19 – Saturday 23 June 2018
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Weds, Sat: 2.30pm.
Click here to book tickets: Book online
Tour website: http://summerholidaythemusical.co.uk/
Twitter: @Summer_UK_Tour

Summer Holiday on tour:

19 – 23 June
Edinburgh
Playhouse
0844 871 3014
Book online

26 – 30 June
Plymouth
Theatre Royal
01752 230440
Book online

17 – 21 July
Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650
Book online

24 – 28 July
Blackpool
Winter Gardens
0844 856 1111
Book online

30 July – 4 August
Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700
Book online

14 – 18 August
Cardiff
Wales Millennium Centre
029 2063 6464
Book online

23 – 27 August
Southend on Sea
Cliffs Pavilioin
01702 351135
Book online

4 – 8 September
Dartford
Orchard Theatre
01322 220000
Book online

11 – 15 September
Chester
Storyhouse
0845 241 7868 |
Book online

18 – 22 September
Wimbledon
New Wimbledon Theatre
0844 871 7646
Book online

2 – 6 October
Stoke-on-Trent
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649
Book online

23 – 27 October
Aylesbury
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
08448 717 627
Book online

30 October – 3 November
Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648
Book online

Bobby Crush. Pic Summer Holiday productions.

ENDS

Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.
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Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.