Writer: Peter Yates
Adaptor: Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan
Director: Racky Plews
Reviewer: Cathy Swaby
What better way to celebrate this belting hot summer in Brighton than to pop along to see the “feel good” 1963 musical Summer Holiday, which is playing to overheated audiences at the Theatre Royal this week. Performing to standing ovations and sing along crowds, this tour captures all the ‘60s nostalgia and atmosphere of the original Peter Yates movie.
The film starred the white-toothed sex symbol of his day Cliff Richards, who set hearts racing as he pranced about on a bus singing little ditties to the ladies. 1963 was the era of post Elvis mania, and Richards was the new, British equivalent.
When Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan adapted the film to a musical in 1996, it originally starred the Richards doppelganger Darren Day, but has on this updated tour boasted another imitation in the mesmerising Ray Quinn, of Brookside and Dancing on Ice fame. Quinn is faultless in his swagger and his lip rolling London accent, which emanates much of the movie’s 1960s effect and he is aptly and Cliff-cheesy too. In fact, at times, he looks like he could be about to let out a chorus of ‘Mistletoe and Wine’.
Quinn plays Don, a bus conductor who persuades his comrades to embark on a holiday of a lifetime to Europe in an old converted London bus. On their travels they meet a group of girl singers, Mimsie, Alma and Angie, and so the fun begins as the girls jump on board in pursuit of fun, sun and fame with their band ‘Doe Rae Me’ (fans of 60s-esque girl bands like the Pipettes will be thrilled). Later we meet Barbara, a successful American singer on the run, who Pantomime-like, dressed as a boy, manages to con the bus party into letting her ride along.
Barbara, played by the elfin Sophie Matthew, becomes our leading lady once her true feminine persona is revealed at a dance, and she and Don embark on a will they/won’t they romance. The story is far from deep or complex, but it is a relaxing giggle in a sea of modern-day musicals which can carry the common themes, but somehow without such retrospective naivety.
The show is comical, uplifting and innocent, although would be slightly raucous for younger audiences in places with burlesque-style costumes and some rather more saucy references (well- it was the swinging 60s after all). The stars of the show however, are Joe Goldie, who plays Edwin, a contortioned fumbler, and Rory Maguire (joining the cast straight from the UK tour of Mamma Mia!), playing Cyril, a fast-talking nimble lad, and as Don’s friends they both strengthen the show’s entertainment value with comedy, movement and cheekiness.
Barbara’s Cruella Deville styled mother Stella is our pantomime dame with her sidekick Jerry who brings us a scattering of laughs, again cross-dressing, and playing the dumb fool; a contrast to her spiky parenting skills.
The set design, by Steve Howell, is postcard collage simple but with an immense shiny rotating London bus at the forefront of the stage, taking it over in fact, and we feel like kids in a fairground ride watching as the dancing, singing and dialogue unfold.
Hits such as Living Doll, The Young Ones, Do You Wanna Dance? and of course Summer Holiday will have you perhaps not swinging but at least swaying in your seat, as Quinn effortlessly resonates the tone and melody of 1960s youthfulness. A must see for original fans of the movie, and Ray Quinn admirer’s alike.
Runs until 21 July 2018 | Image: Contributed