|Date||25th September 2019|
|Venue||The Brindley Theatre, Runcorn|
|Type of Production||Musical|
|Musical Director||Andy Davies|
Author: Joe Clarke
Summer Holiday, originally a 1963 film starring Cliff Richard and Lauri Peters was adapted for the stage in the early 1990’s and contained some of the original tracks from the film and used Cliff’s back catalogue of songs. The destination of the ‘holiday’ in the musical also changed, as Yugoslavia no longer exists.
Encore Productions produced their fantastic musical ‘Wind in the Willows’ earlier this year and I was looking forward to another great production. Sadly, this musical was not up to the same standard as its previous show. Nick Cupit was the director for this production. There were various plot holes and continuity errors that spoilt it for me. Continuity errors such as picking up a telephone and speaking to someone on the other end without dialling, having your feet on the ground whilst the bus is moving, the telephone box in Paris being spelt in English, the screen showing where the bus was moving on the map driving through Spain and Portugal when it said Athens. I could go on. There were various other issues for me when actors were talking upstage, blocking themselves and each other and the whole thing being a little too far back which meant that some of the cast were in darkness throughout. Despite all of the negativity, the 200+ audience loved the show and left with smiles on their faces and singing along to the tunes. As a theatre production – it was lack lustre; as an entertainment show – it was a hit! I commend the energy and enthusiasm from the whole cast. They looked like they were having a lot of fun, which in turn, made the audience have fun too. The audience were singing along to some of the songs, so it was clear there was a lot of love in the room for this show.
The musical director for this show was Andy Davies. Whilst I felt that the band were excellent, they were a little too loud, particularly the drums. I really struggled to hear the lyrics of some of the songs, particularly in the opening few songs. I loved hearing the various parts of the band (the trumpet was my fav) – but a little too loud for me, in parts. It was also clear that a lot of work has gone into musicality. The harmonies were brilliant, and the singing was, one again from Encore, top notch.
Choreography (Natasha Bill) lacked creativity. Every dance was done in unison with the main chorus walking on and off stage or swaying/moving at the back. The actual choreography was good, and the dancers were great – they performed very well and had great smiles on their faces, but I felt that overall the whole thing lacked any real creative flair.
Lighting was woeful. It was clear that the lighting plot or design wasn’t complete (I went on opening night). Most of the first half was good but there were too many times when a general wash was used to cover scenes. The lower deck of the bus was dark, and the majority of the actors were not lit for the entire show.
The set and costumes were great. The bus in particular was impressive. The opening reveal with the bus was great but for the rest of the show the bus stayed along the back wall which was a little too far back for me. The cloths that were dropped in were great – I liked the French Metro one best. Scene changes were a little slow and at times, you could see actors running off for quick changes before the lights had faded to black.
Sound (Danny Clare) was generally very good. I struggled to hear the main character Don at times, but I fear this might be the actor, not the sound dept. I also felt that the band were too loud in chorus numbers – again, I don’t know whether this is the sound dept or the band.
The main cast were generally strong and told the story well. Blair Smith (Don) was well cast and had a great singing voice – even if it sounded a little tired. Blair is on stage a lot and did well to keep up the pace and energy. His love interest, Theresa Davies (Barbara) also had a sweet voice and sang well. I felt that Theresa dropped the energy from time to time and was a little too laid back. Her hair also got in the way at times in act two.
The three male counterparts of Don were played by Ed Parry (Steve), Clayton Roberts (Edwin) and Rob Knowles (Cyril). Each one kept the pace and the energy and had their own characterisations. I loved Ed’s singing voice – it was particularly impressive. Clayton’s voice was strong in the lower register, but I lost LOTS of the storyline due to his poor diction and articulation. Rob did well and developed a lovely rapport with his female counterpart (Angie).
The Do, Re, Mi girls were well cast and displayed excellent vocals. Mimsie (Izzi Feld), Alma (Katie Johnson) and Angie (Laura Cupit) brought a great energy and flair. They worked very well together, and I liked their individual characterisations. All three girls sang brilliantly – although a little too loud when providing offstage vocals. I liked their style, vibe and choreography. If I was to nit-pick – Katie was a tiny fraction behind in all of the choreography and went the wrong way at times. I normally wouldn’t mention this but as it was in unison, it was a little obvious.
Stella (Barbara’s overbearing mother), was played by Dawn Lloyd. Dawn did well in this part and played the bossy diva very well. She had excellent projection and very much looked the part. She also had a great rapport with the agent (Jerry). Jerry, played by Neil Atherton, was equally well cast. I cannot fault his commitment to characterisation and energy. These two characters provide the comedy and there were times when the jokes hit their mark and other times when they fell down. I think was due to opening night jitters – overall, they brought energy and a light relief.
The rest of this fully inclusive cast performed with smiles on their faces and looked like they were having a lot of fun onstage. Entrances and exits need to be a little slicker and done with purpose. When acting with a glass or a cup – it has to be believable. There were too many times when the majority of the whole cast were drinking from their cup, to be dropped down by their side in part of a dance then back to drinking from it again – a pet peeve.
In the same week as the launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2019 – this production is more of an Ann Widdecombe rather than an Alesha Dixon. The irony isn’t lost on me though – my negativity is more of a Craig Revel Horwood rather than a Bruno Tonioli! As I have mentioned at the beginning – the audience left with smiles on their faces and singing along to the tunes and that’s all that matters. You cannot say that the audience were not entertained. I thank Encore for their hospitality and look forward to their new venture of Panto in 2020!