Based on the film screenplay by Ronald Cass and Peter Myers
Adapted by Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan
Director and Choreographer: Racky Plews
Reviewer: Mark Clegg
Amazingly it has been five-and-a-half decades since Cliff Richard boarded a London Bus and toured Europe in the movie Summer Holiday, and it remains a firm favourite from a bygone era. Now, no doubt because the likes of Dreamboats and Petticoats and Jersey Boys have recently been doing big box-office in regional theatres, producer David King has resurrected the stage adaption to tap into the public’s current hunger for the swinging sixties.
What little plot the show offers sees four London lads taking a double-decker bus through Europe for their eponymous vacation. On the way, they pick up three stranded girls and a young boy who turns out to be a disguised girl on the run from her controlling mother. Obviously, the two groups of four pair off in neat couples while immediately and easily overcoming all obstacles in their path to reach the inevitable happy ending. It is no exaggeration to say that there is probably no other musical that offers such little dramatic drive or character development as Summer Holiday. But who needs those things when you have a full-size bus on stage and a score featuring some genuinely great Cliff tunes from the height of his career?!
Unfortunately, the script is awful. The story is twee, the jokes generally fall flat and many of the songs are shoehorned into the story with scant regard for logic. Such a weak script could still be saved with the correct tone but unfortunately, Racky Plews’s direction is somewhat inconsistent with a few of the cast members offering sincere, natural performances, while others overact and gurn like they are in a pantomime.
However, that all being said this production has much to recommend it. Ray Quinn is superb as Don: giving the character his own personality while still offering a hint of Cliff to satisfy fans of the movie. Quinn has an easy charm that is perfectly utilized in this role and which is complemented with flawless vocal, dancing abilities and comic timing. He also has wonderful chemistry with his leading lady as played by Sophie Matthew who displays equally impressive skills along with a natural sparkle that constantly attracts attention despite her diminutive stature. Other standouts in the cast include Joe Goldie who displays great comedy skill as Edwin, Wayne Smith who is also amusing as Jerry, and William Beckerleg who breaks out of the ensemble to brilliantly play about two dozen minor characters. If the rest of the cast could pitch their performances to be on the same wavelength as these guys, the whole show would be all the better for it.
Where this show really comes alive is in the songs. The score features a plethora of toe-tapping classics which are all complimented by frankly stupendous choreography by director Racky Plews. Energetic, exciting, imaginative and always interesting, the choreography elevates this production considerably and by the time the final medley of songs is being belted out while the cast leaps about the stage, it’s hard not to get caught up in the sheer fun of it all.
Although the story and script of Summer Holiday has not aged half as well as Cliff Richard himself, this show still contains enough nostalgia, strong performances and great tunes to provide an entertaining evening. It won’t make you ponder any of life’s deep mysteries, but since its aim is to get you to leave the theatre with a big grin, I would say “mission accomplished”.
Reviewed on 25th September 2018 | Image: Contributed