LondonMusicalReview

Summer Holiday – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Adaptors: Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan

Director and Choreographer: Racky Plews

Musical Director: Rob Wicks

Reviewer: Dan English

With the night’s drawing in and the leaves beginning to fall, it is easy to think that summer is coming to a close. Yet, for those in the touring version of musical Summer Holiday, the heat wave is to stay a little while longer.

Commanding the role of Don, made iconic by Sir Cliff Richard in the 1963 film, Ray Quinn leads the cast through the summer holiday adventure across Europe, as he and his bus mechanic friends attempt to escape another dreary wet fortnight in Britain for something hotter and more exciting.

This adaptation has its moments, with some enjoyable numbers spread across the piece, echoed by a strong orchestra and enthusiastic cast. That said, it is a script which struggles to hit the right notes, particularly in its attempts at humour, which often fall flat and detract from the whimsical charm of the plot, sometimes bordering on the bland. Despite that, a more exciting second half means it retains a lot of the fun from the film original. In addition, the music remains a strength of this story, and it’s a wise choice to include both songs from the original films as well as Sir Cliff Richard’s catalogue to help set the scene of the early 1960s.

The production highlights the breadth of Quinn’s musical theatre talent, performing admirably throughout the show, and demonstrating an exceptional vocal and physical range. A highlight comes during the final number of the first half, which Quinn drives through impressively. It is the ease with which Quinn makes the role of Don is own which is one of the musical’s redeeming qualities. In addition, Sophie Matthew’s delivery of Barbara ensures clear chemistry is created between her and Quinn’s character, although the script does not allow, unfortunately, for too much development of this character, nor further interactions with her amusing, but horrid, mother (Taryn Sudding) or hapless agent (Wayne Smith).

Don’s friends, the chipper mechanics Edwin, Steve and Cyril (Joe Goldie, Billy Roberts and Rory Maguire respectively), provide a good support to Quinn’s Don, and help to kickstart some of the musical’s slower moments. All three are allowed to shine in their own moments, particularly during large ensemble pieces and during more tender moments in the second half. In addition, the energy with which girl group Do Re Mi (Gabby Antrobus, Alice Baker and Laura Marie Benson) help to bring key moments to life.

Creating a stage that expands across Europe has its challenges, but it is disappointing that not more is done with the set to immerse audiences into the summer adventure the characters are undertaking. The space does allow for more dynamic and expansive choreography, and the large London bus does impress on first viewing, but in large parts the stage feels bare and almost sterile, relying on stereotyping to set the scene, which feels clumsy.

Summer Holiday is not the sizzling evening in the sun you’d hope for, but there is enough charm and fun, as well as a tireless cast, to prevent it being the wet weekend that Don and his friends are so desperate to escape from.

Running until 8 Sept 2018

Image: Phil Tragen

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