- United Kingdom Theatre Critic
It's summer here in Scotland! Even if the weather is terrible outside, inside the theatre, there is a new production of the hit Cliff Richard musical, Summer Holiday, touring the UK & Ireland. So I made my way down to the Edinburgh Playhouse to see if this show could give me a more summery vibe than the vertical rain pouring down outside.
Summer Holiday is based on the 1963 movie of the same name, featuring music by Cliff Richard and the shadows. It follows bus mechanics as they take a London bus across europe heading for Athens, after picking up a stranded girl group who were heading for a performance which could be their big break. On the way they pick up Bobby a young man who has something peculiar about him. With Bobby's true identity unravelling as Barbara, a runaway popstar and many unexpected hold ups, will the group make it to Athens on time?
In terms of the summery vibe, the show did pretty well in delivering, with Robert Wicks nicely sprucing up the musical numbers to make them more accessible for a 21st century audience. Racky Plews directs this production, he gives it pace, good variety of moments with the ensemble cast and manages to keep the nostalgic 60s vibe about it. Plews also Choreographs this piece, he throws complex dance sequences into musical numbers which would not be nearly as entertaining without them. Because the cast's execution of the movement is superb, the complexity of the sequences really pays off and is one of the strongest elements within this production.
The one thing I felt let this production down was the set. Steve Howell is the set designer and even though there was a fantastic London bus on stage, I feel it was too solely focused on that. For me there wasn't enough colour to get you the connotations of summer. The poster for this musical is so bright and appealing, yet the colour on stage is not matched. Tim Deiling's lighting design tries hard to lift the colour on stage and even though the lighting design for this production is great, because of how dark it is on stage, it doesn't look visually summery.
Performance wise, we were in very safe hands. Ray Quinn played the lead role of Don. Ray who is well known for being an XFactor finalist, is a stunning singer, his voice graciously filled the playhouse. His acting was also very good as well, his voice and characteristics were very similar to Cliff Richard's in the original movie, it was nice to see a link there. Also Ray's dancing was on point, he carried himself very well and was perfectly in beat. A very impressive and strong performance from Quinn.
Bobby Crush as Jerry and Taryn Sudding as Stella are a brilliant double act, it was like watching cinematic comedy with the pair of them. Bobby's typical British humour got the audience laughing and Taryn's Stella was very Velma Von Tussle with a side of Norma Desmond, it was very appropriate for the sixties vibe.
Sophie Matthew as Barbara was a delight, she was great in comical and also the slightly dramatic/cheesy moments of the musical. Her voice is also great.
Billy Roberts as Steve, Joe Goldie as Edwin and Rory Maguire as Cyril all performed brilliantly as Don's mechanic buddies. They all had individual characteristics with a good amount of depth, which is difficult with such a large amount of main characters.
Gabby Antrobus as Mimsie, Laura Marie Benson as Angie and Alice Baker as Alma, all were glorious as the singing trio, Do-re-mi. Their singing and dancing skill was magnificent. However, I feel their characters could have been written as stronger woman, there was definitely glimpses brought by the actresses themselves. But there was a lot of the stereotypical woman characters of the sixties in the writing.
Overall, this show does have a few issues, however, it was a very enjoyable production, which is clearly full of sixties nostalgia, a fun storyline, excellent singing, dancing and a lot of cheesy moments. It was that good that it had the elder members of the audience dancing in the isles at the encore, which then proceeded to a standing obviation. This is a fun show! However, at points it just didn't feel like we were on a summer holiday. Therefore, I rate this show 3½/5 stars. I would definitely recommend you still see the show as the performers make it great!