Lewis C. Baird, Contributing Critic - United Kingdom
The 1980s is a much loved and nostalgic era for a vast percentage of Britain. Maybe the politics were questionable, along with some of the fashion choices, however all in all the 80s was a decade which many people reminisce and boast about. Therefore could the latest 80s inspired jukebox musical, “Club Tropicana", live up to the bust of colour and hype that comes with this decade? I headed along to Scotland's answer to Broadway, the Edinburgh Playhouse, for the answer.
“Club Tropicana" follows the story of the not so love birds Olly and Lorraine, who have called off their wedding and are off on holiday with their friends to get over their heartbreak. This story is set to some of the most iconic hits of the 80s, with some very bold and bright fashion thrown in the mix.
Joe McElderry plays Garry the host with the most. Supplying uber amounts of energy and camp charisma, Joe steals the stage each time he makes an appearance. Clearly being a fan favourite with his comic timing and superb vocals. The standout within this production in my opinion has to be Kate Robbins as Consuela. Her side splitting portrayal of the ditsy Spanish maid is scene stealing material, from the on point sarcastic Spanish accent to the physicality of the character, she has it down to a tee! Also her impressions were delightfully brilliant.
Emily Tierney takes on an unexpected role as Christina. The musical theatre actress who is best known for floating above OZ in a bubble definitely stretches her acting range here by playing the snobby cow (or is she?), Christina. Her deadpan acting within this role is what makes it funny. Plus she is almost completely unrecognisable by adapting her physicality as she takes on this older character. However it would be good to hear her stunning voice more as she barely sings within this musical.
Amelle Barrabah makes a brilliant theatrical debut as Serena. The lightness she supplies the character definitely makes Serena much more accessible to the audience. Plus we are definitely invested with the believability she delivers in her acting. Her singing is also stupendous, there was only the slight issue of Amelle clearly trying to fight the microphone feedback by covering her ear at one stage, which slightly broke character. Apart from that this was a sound and good debut in a musical! Nye Rees understudied Robert confidently by supplying charm and a likeable character, plus there was a clear good relationship between himself and Amelle, which helped the chemistry onstage.
Karina Hind plays Lorraine a young confused woman who doesn't know what she wants in life, a man or friends? Karina's portrayal was impressive, showing a very vulnerable and partly damaged character. The vocals Karina supplied this character was probably the best singing within this pretty talented cast. Cellen Chugg Jones portrayed Olly as a broken man who was missing the love of his life. The desperation the character had was clear which made it very easy for the audience to sympathise with Olly and root for his relationship with Lorraine.
The comedy within this musical was provided very much by the hotel staff, however they had the help of Olly and Lorraine's friends. There were the lads Blaine and Drew, played by Kane Verrall and Rory Phelan. Then there were the ladies Tracey and Andrea, played by Rebecca Mendoza and Tara Verloop. These actors really threw themselves into the comedy supplying some great moments of the musical. As well as wearing some VERY questionable outfits while doing some very erratic dance routines!
The final members of this cast is the ensemble who brilliantly burst into scenes providing smashing back in vocals and such impressive skill through the complex dance numbers. The ensemble were as follows, Ben Darcy, Joshua Pearson, Camilla Rowland, Courtney Brogan Smalley, Christina Shand, Alexanda O'Reilly and Megan Louch.
Michael Gyngell's script for this musical is British comedy at it's best, the dialogue is clever and witty. When it comes to the romantic side of it, it gets cheesy, very cheesy, maybe a little too cheesy at points?It is clear Michael bound the story around the music, which works for some jukebox musicals, cough cough “Mamma Mia". However, in the case of this musical the story at points seems forced and it does show, but that being said there is some originality in this production with the rather outlandish relationship of Olly and Lorraine. Samuel Holmes and Nick Winston do well in directing this production, they transpose the humour and lightness the script suggests while also milking every bit of colour from the soundtrack. Charlie Ingles as musical director with help from Greg Arrowsmith as musical supervisor/arranger do well to capture and adapt the iconic hits featured in this musical, however you can't help feeling at points the music sometimes under energises the production. With that being said, audiences are still being delighted by the impressive list of iconic tracks featured.
Diego Pitarch designs the set and costume for this production, here is where there are definite issues. In terms of costume there is a brilliant capturing of the 1980s outlandish styling and it seems there has been high quality outsourcing from the costume department. However, the set for this musical does look very cheap and rather amateur. Hotel Club Tropicana’s colour scheme of baby blue and pink is familiar, however the actual room's features look barely functional and the set barely takes over the stage. The opening scene's set of the church is definitely not the most hopeful start to a professional production, it looks like something you would expect to see within a school assembly hall. Tim Deiling's lighting design at points did make the set look better however at other points left the stage looking barely lit or drained of colour. When it came to the musical numbers the lighting did however elevate the energy and mood on stage.
Overall, this musical is not perfect it does have several issues, however, if you are going to see “Club Tropicana" expecting a load of 1980s bangers and some great British humour, then you will not be disappointed!