MusicalNorth WestReview

Summer Holiday – Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Stage Adapters: Michael Gyngell & Mark Haddigan

Directors: Elizabeth Newman & Ben Occhipinti

Reviewer: Jay Nuttall

After weeks of commuter hell in the north of England, it was a pleasure to see a crowd of people with beaming smiles desperate to board public transport at Bolton’s new travel interchange. The OctagonTheatre’s production of Summer Holiday may not take us beyond Bolton’s town centre but it is a jolly adventure and with a slight suspension of disbelief we go off on a sunny European adventure.

With major refurbishment of The Octagon theatre itself this production was planned to take place around Bolton. However, due to a couple of spanners in the works the majority of the show takes place in the theatre’s auditorium. The show begins at Bolton’s new travel interchange. There is as much pleasure witnessing the bemused expressions of unknowing commuters in the exchange as there is in being introduced to Don (Michael Peavoy) and his work colleagues of Bolton bus engineers as they decide to take a double-decker bus on a European vacation and lead us in the first sing-a-long of the evening. All aboard six double-decker buses the audience is transported the short journey to the steps of Bolton’s town hall, aka The French Riviera of course. And the sing-a-longs continue on the way lead by a member of the cast on each bus. Despite the musical technical difficulties on-board Steve (David Heywood) managed to keep his captive audience singing acapella all the way.

Once at ‘Le French Riviera’ the gang bump into and befriend a travelling musical trio who have broken down in their Mini. The ‘Do Ray Mes’ (Isobel Bates, Sarah Workman and Robert Jackson) are recruited and the slightly more numerous gang head off on their way to drop the band off in Athens! And we go with them … or perhaps more accurately, we follow them around the corner and into the theatre for the rest of the evening’s proceedings …

The plot of Summer Holiday can be summed up on the back of a matchbox. Throw in stowaway American musical star Barbara Winters (Eleanor Brown) dressed as a boy in a vaguely Shakespearean comedic plot line and that is about the lot. That said, nobody should be coming to see this production for its storyline just as nobody watched the original 1963 film with Cliff Richard for anything other than a musical romp. There is a thread picking its way through but the evening’s entertainment is a musical back catalogue of Cliff Richard and The Shadows. As well as the title track the cast/band lead us through Bachelor BoyA Swingin’ Affair, the foot tapping Foot Tapper and, of course, The Young Ones which, at one point, is sung as a duo between Don (Peavoy) and Barbara (Brown) as a hymn to the exuberance and freedom of youth – the main thrust of the show as a whole.

The cast of ten actor-musicians work extremely hard to keep the energy at the top level. They are clearly having fun on stage and their enthusiasm is infectious. By the end of the show their audience is on its feet and filled to the brim with rock’n’roll under Richard Reeday’s musical direction. Directors Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti very much deliver a feel-good show designed to put a spring in your step and a smile on your face.

It was a little shame that only a few minutes of the show was aboard a double-decker bus and that the show moved inside a conventional theatre space so quickly after such an exciting premise. However, there is no doubting this is gong to be a highly popular crowd pleaser.

Runs until 23 June, 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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