Based on the 1963 hit film of the same name, Summer Holiday: The Musical is the ‘feel-good musical of the year’. 4 young London Transport mechanics head on a trip across the continent by London bus in search of a brilliant summer, and manage to pick up some strays along the way. Press night at Milton Keynes Theatre (where I most recently saw The Play That Goes Wrong) was a little too grey weather-wise for the audience to get into too much of a summery mood, but the story inside certainly changed that.
Ray Quinn stars as Don, the character Cliff Richard is known best for, has come a long way from his days on The X Factor, although don’t just write him off as an ex-reality star (for starters, he’s already had successful runs in Grease and Dirty Dancing on the West End stage, and has recently finished the UK tour of The Wedding Singer). Ray Quinn truly is the star of the show: cheeky, charismatic and easily one of the best dancers on the stage. Without Quinn, Summer Holiday would be feel a little too am-dram to play such a large venue. In fact, I can definitely see the rights becoming available to am-dram societies within a few years as it was a people-pleaser, but the story didn’t feel like it should be on a professional platform.
Jerry, Barbara Winters’ long-suffering agent, is played by Bobby Crush. But if I’m honest, he didn’t bring a whole lot to the table. I understand that the plot would move nowhere without Barbara’s doting albeit fame hungry mother and bumbling agent (not that it moved much at all in the first place), but there was something that felt unnecessary about this role. Many of his jokes fell flat despite this role clearly being there for the comic relief. In fact, the humour was predictable throughout unfortunately, leading to minimal laughs, although Rory Maguire’s brilliantly timed monologue as Cyril at the beginning of act two received a rapturous applause.
But for me, whilst the plot was dated, the sound was all over the place and the set design was boring aside for the double decker bus that graced the stage for much of the performance (which is a ‘wow’ moment, but easily loses its appeal after a couple of scenes), this production is worth seeing for the choreography. Racky Plews served as both director and choreographer and without her, the show would’ve been a disaster; it’s the movement that effortlessly draws the production together. The dancing is fun, a little camp (although you’ll be hard pushed to find dancing in musicals that isn’t), and smile-inducing. The movements really flow into one another, and the cast were obviously cast due to their dance abilities as their singing was a little lacking. Whilst I could pick apart many of the aspects of the show, I simply can’t say a bad word about the choreography.
Main Cast: 7/10
Lighting Design: 6/10
Sound Design: 4/10
Set Design: 7/10
Costume Design: 7/10
Audience Engagement: 7/10
Summer Holiday has been adapted for the stage by Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan, and includes all of the hits from the movie, plus some additional Cliff classics, but it’s definitely more of a show to pull in the older crowds than to reach out to the younger generations of theatre goers. If you want a night of a brilliant choreography to well-known songs then I’d give Summer Holiday a go, but if you want something with a bit of depth you’re looking in the wrong place.
Summer Holiday is playing at Milton Keynes Theatre until 19th May with tickets starting from £14, before heading up and down the country to complete the tour in Glasgow in the autumn.