Summer Holiday – the Musical
Regent Theatre, Stoke on Trent.
The Coffee bar culture comes to Stoke. The 60s definitely did swing, perhaps more so if you were there. But if you didn’t experience it first hand, or you did and have misplaced the memory, then book yourself some time to watch this show.
Cliff and the Gang were the squeaky clean, boy and girl next door and carried that off to cinema audiences with a nice rom-com and some good tunes to boot.
So, yes its ok to watch the film to capture the innocence of that time, but seeing a live rendition is even better; and this show is even better.
The shaky start was down to a perceived sound imbalance, not the fault of anyone on stage, but it did detract initally from the storyline. It got better through the first Act, but I believe a little more attention to the vocal balance would enhance a most enjoyable experience and prevent a little shrieking from the cast. Again, I add this was not down to indifferent singing, in fact the vocals, choreography and stage presence was very good and at times excellent.
Some of the dance sequences had your head spinning with their complexity and coordination, but perhaps the most visible prop, a big red London bus, was choreographed seamlessly to drop in when required. The simple stage set was used in a subtle way, in fact I only noticed it moving at the ferry terminal; but I guess thats what good theatre does: it makes you suspend everyday reality.
All the hits you know are there, many led by Don (Ray Quinn) who excelled as the main character, ably assisted by his crew and Barbara (Sophie Matthew) as female lead. That said, there is not a single weak link in the vocal dexterity on show, although the mime sequence threw my conciousness a little.
Jerry (Wayne Smith) and Stella (Taryn Sudding) provided the good cop bad cop element, and did it well too. I have to admire a male actor who can wear a dress and not decend into camp whilst being gay (in its original 60s definition).
A large strong cast make sure the pace never flags, with some wonderful ear-crunching French accents (a la Renee). The odd joke was played in nicely but again in a fresh-faced way that kept things moving.
A mention too for the live band whose note perfect performance almost made you forget they were there. A lady sat next to me (press) said she couldn’t quite work out who was miming, the band or the cast. None of them actually!
The whole experience is uplifting and joyous, not a single swear word or innuendo to be seen, and a wondeful sing-a-long at the finale to send you home humming that (damned) tune again; how will I get the refrain from Summer Holiday out of my head? (ear worm? yes indeed!). My apologies to the cast….. I could not help hearing the Rik Mayall shouts during the delivery of The Young Ones – in my head of course.
If you are a nostalgia junky, a post war swinger (60s definition again of course) or someone who simply enjoys a good honest clean nights entertainment, then book your ride on the Big Red Bus at the Regent Theatre….but soon.
Review by D James Chambers