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Review of Summer Holiday at the Churchill Theatre

Summer HolidayThis production of Summer Holiday is based on the 1963 movie of the same name starring Cliff Richard. It was adapted for the stage by Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan and had its first production in Blackpool in 1996 starring Darren Day as Don, the bus mechanic played by Cliff in the movie.

In this current touring production, Don is played by X Factor runner-up Ray Quinn and he’s supported by a young, energetic cast and the not so young and energetic Bobby Crush. It’s the story of four young bus mechanics who take an old Routemaster bus on a trip to the south of France but are waylaid by three girls whose car has broken down on their way to Athens to sing at a nightclub. That means there are four boys to three girls leaving Don as
the gooseberry as the other six pair-up until a young stowaway “Bobby” turns up to balance up the numbers. But Don is still the odd-man out as “Bobby” is a fourteen-year-old boy – or is he? And that’s about it for the plot which as slight as it is, is as full of holes as a swiss cheese.

But Summer Holiday isn’t the kind of show you go to for the plot – you go for the songs and there are plenty of those. Some are from the film such as the title song, “The Next Time” and “Batchelor Boy” but in the stage adaptation we get all those plus some of Cliff’s other hits such as “Living Doll” and “The Young Ones”. The choreography from director Racky Plewes is full of life and energy and the younger members of the large cast give it all they’ve got.

However, the dialogue is pretty lame and could do with a bit of an update. I know it’s set in the early sixties but I could have done without some of the cheap sexism, innuendo and homophobic gags. The set is pretty basic as most of the budget seems to have been spent on the almost full-size double-decker bus so lots of events such as the girl’s car breaking down, happen off-stage. Apart from the bus, the main component of the set are flats that
slide on and off and are covered in postcards of European countries. These are spotlighted as the story moves from country to country but the spotlighting was so subtle, I’m not sure how many in the audience spotted this inventive, money saving device.

As for the two names above the title, Ray Quinn channelled Cliff but in a strange, strangled “posh” London accent – I don’t know why he couldn’t have used his own more natural Liverpudlian voice. But he has great charm and sang and danced superbly. As for Bobbie Crush, I’m sure he was there to put bums on seats but he was totally wasted as Jerry a dozy, show-biz agent and for most of the evening he was in full pantomime dame mode and didn’t go anywhere near a piano!

However, any enjoyment I may have got from the evening was totally ruined by one of the loudest bands I have ever heard in the theatre. A few weeks ago, I saw the rock musical “Bat Out Of Hell” and the music was extremely loud as was to be expected but last night’s band seemed even louder! The awful drums were thumping and distracting and the brass section seemed to be in a battle with the drummer as to who could play the loudest. This caused the singers to have to shout over them, resulting in some shrill and often out of tune singing from one or two members of the cast who possibly couldn’t hear themselves think let alone sing.

Summer Holiday is billed as a “feel good show” and as I left during the second or was it the third encore song (there are six listed in the programme), the audience in the Churchill Theatre were on their feet dancing and feeling good. Thanks to the drummer and his mates in the band, I was on my feet on my way home feeling the onset of tinnitus!

3 Star Review

Review by Alan Fitter

The hit 1960’s film starring Cliff Richard is now ‘the feel-good musical of the year!’ Daily Mail
Ray Quinn stars in the happiest musical around alongside 70s legend Bobby Crush as Jerry!
The hit iconic 1960’s film starring Cliff Richard is now the feel- good musical of the year, bringing music, laughter and fun to the stage as it becomes the happiest hit musical around.

Ray Quinn stars as Don (originally played by Cliff in the film) who heads on a fun packed boys trip in a London bus visiting Paris, The Alps, Italy and Greece, in search of a good time and a brilliant summer.

This is the story of their amazing Summer Holiday adventure, which is full of fun, laughter, hit songs, and of course romance, as along the way they meet and travel around Europe with a girl band and a young American pop star who is running away from home.

This Summer Holiday musical is the happiest of all musicals. It is a feel-good show with bundles of energy and lots of laughs – it is sure to put a huge smile on your face.

Don’t miss Summer Holiday… and look out for the London Bus!

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