It is not so often that a show can truly earn the title of an extraordinary piece of theatre but Summer Holiday surprises and delights in equal measure, as a fun and even if somewhat very dated film over fifty year’s old is given a vibrant and dynamic new lease of life.
Summer Holiday is essentially a feel-good show; easily accessible which will genuinely appeal to all ages. What sets this adaptation of an old favourite apart from so many other productions of re-vamped classic films and shows is the remarkably imaginative use of locations; truly a case of taking theatre to the people in an engaging and powerful way.
The opening scene is quite literally the beautifully revamped Bolton Bus Terminal, conveniently having a recessed area just the right size to house a full mid-sized theatre audience. The space is used to good effect and as a nice bonus, offers a glimpse of performance to possibly a good number of non-theatre goers, which must surely be a good thing. But how to transfer an audience from there back to the theatre? The obvious answer is have a fleet of double-decker buses, conveniently using the transport premise of Summer Holiday to introduce the cast to the audience with a sing-along. The majestically expansive steps of Bolton Town Hall were too good a performance space to miss for this kind of show, having a large performance area at the bottom for a mini with a singing trio to break down in, and the audience is treated to another spectacle. From there, it is a just short hop over to the theatre.
The set of Summer Holiday is a breath-taking splash of colourful flags, worthy of a post-impressionist painting and providing a nice cosmopolitan back-drop. This is an actor musician show and virtually everyone plays an instrument, with very faithful reinterpretations of the early sixties 'sound of the Shadows' (plus the famous Shadows guitar walk). The pace is non-stop and in addition to all the favourites from the film, other famous Cliff Richard numbers such as Move it are also included.
Those who are familiar with the film should not be disappointed but Summer Holiday does have a number of key variations. Above all, no attempt has been made to impersonate the key characters. Michael Peavoy as Dan is dynamic but is more comparable to Timothy Dalton (as James Bond) than Cliff Richard and Alexander Bean’s performance as Cyril, whilst endearing, owes more to Paul Robeson in Showboat than Melvyn Hayes. Sarah Workman as Angie and Isobel Bates as Mimsie come over well as two parts of the singing trio, originally led by Una Stubbs, but to make the third girl a gay man, albeit nicely played by Robert Jackson, seemed an update too far which, for me at least, did not quite work. Credit must be paid to the ‘American trio’ played by Greg Last as Jerry, Eleanor Brown as Stella and Barbara Hockaday (as the main love interest Barabara) who provided drama and comedy in equal measure and Dan’s mates Edwin, played by Luke Thorton and Steve played by David Heywood, are a likeable duo, very much in the spirit of the original film.
Summer Holiday really is a feel-good show, bringing back fond memories to those of us can remember the 60s and 70s and delighting younger audiences with the music from an era when being famous and popular did not emanate from just winning a Saturday night TV talent show. Only the coldest and most stone-hearted can fail to be switched on by this colourful, varied and vibrant evening of fun entertainment.
Reviewer - John Waterhouse
on - 4/6/18
on - 4/6/18