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Summer Holiday - Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Louise Winter on 17th May 2018 | View all blogs by Louise Winter

Reviewed by Quentin Fox

16th May 2018

Summer Holiday

‘We’re going where the sun shines brightly, we’re going where the sea is blue…’ Now that’s a helluva promise to make on a less-than-balmy mid-May evening in MK, but this new production of Summer Holiday: The Musical gets us to a joyous destination even though ride is a bit bumpy from time to time. 

Based on St Cliff’s 1963 cinema smash hit, the lightest and frothiest of plots has become part of British culture and serves as a reminder of more innocent times, when to be young was to be possessed of boundless optimism and opportunity rather than weighed down with social media expectation and high rent. This background certainly makes the show a cut above often directionless jukebox musicals.

Faced with a grim, damp English summer Don and his fellow bus mechanic chums persuade London Transport to lend them a double-decker, which they kit out camper-style for a trip to the South of France. En route they rescue a plucky Brit female singing trio from breakdown hell. The gals have a gig in Athens to get to; the lads don’t need much convincing to oblige them with a lift. Add to the mix a runaway pop princess who stows away on the bus dressed as a boy (the pop princess, not the bus – do keep up) to avoid the pursuit of her pushy showbiz mum and her agent.

The show doesn’t start well: the choreography is ragged and the opening number, The Shadows’ Foot Tapper has been transformed from a catchy instrumental into a rushed nightmare of jumbled lyrics that the bus mechanics all but stumble over.

But the arrival of Ray Quinn’s wholesome Don immediately ups the game and the energy levels. Quinn is a stylish performer: a clear, pleasing voice and an athletic, graceful yet muscular dance style. He also affects one of those extraordinary transatlantic accents so beloved of Cliff and those other early 1960s icons such as Billy Fury and Marty Wilde – a real connection with the source of the show. He leads the ensemble into one dynamic and slickly performed set piece after another as well as getting the chance to belt out Cliff numbers such as Move It, The Young Ones and On The Beach that didn’t appear in the original movie.

That’s not to say he’s the star of the show. That accolade is reserved for the big shiny red bus that dominates the action and which well merited the round of applause it received from the audience. Honourable mentions, too, for Taryn Sudding as Stella, the showbiz mother from hell who handles her role with real comic aplomb, and Gabby Antrobus as Mimsie, leader of the girl trio, who impressively transforms from girl-next-door to black-clad vamp in a dream sequence.

A salute, too, for Bobby Crush as Jerry, the henpecked agent, who survived the delivery of gags that were passed over by Roman comedians of the third century BC. But in the end he got to tinkle his ivories and the audience delightedly got on its hind legs to bop to a slam-dunk finale.

Note to writers: we love the dancing, we love the songs, but the comedy needs a session in the vehicle bay before it gets its MOT and is on the road again.

Box office 0844 871 7652

http://www.atgtickets.com

Booking fee applies

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