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Summer Holiday at New Alexandra Theatre

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Whilst a British summer can be decidedly unpredictable, the brand new stage musical version of Cliff Richard’s iconic film Summer Holiday is guaranteed to bring the warmth of summer and put a smile on your face.

I grew up watching Summer Holiday, a favoured film of a childhood friend.  It is the story of Don, played originally by Cliff Richard, and his friends who are all London bus mechanics.  Low on money, the group want to escape the dreary shores of a gloomy British holiday for the south of France, but lack the funds.  Don convinces London Transport to lend the group an old red London bus, which they convert to a holiday home on wheels intending to drive it across Europe.  On route, they meet a girl group whose car has broken down, convincing them to re-route their holiday to Athens, and end up with a stowaway too, a famous female singer who is incognito as a young boy. It is silly, Shakespearean and perfect example of a bygone era.

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The stage play does divert from the movie somewhat, clearing up some geographical quirks and includes a number of Cliff Richard’s back catalogue, such as In the Country, Summer Holiday, Travellin’ Light, Bachelor Boy, Move It, Living Doll, The Young Ones and On the Beach, some of which are not from the original film, but thread in well.

2006 X Factor runner up Ray Quinn plays the role of Don, or rather plays the role of Cliff Richard playing the role of Don.  With a role so associated with Richards, this is clearly a winning move, with Quinn adopting some of Richard’s mannerisms and breathier song-notes, well received by the audience.  The trio of Billy Roberts, Joe Goldie, and Rory Maguire play Don’s workmates and friends, paired with girl group Do-Re-Mi, played by Gabby Antrobus, Alice Baker, and Laura Marie Benson.  Both trios bounce off each other well, offering playful antics and light summer romances.

Whilst the play doesn’t have traditional villains, songwriter, actor, broadcaster and television presenter Bobby Crush and stage-star Taryn Sudding play the almost pantomimic characters of the hapless agenda and controlling fame-hungry mother.  Whilst the play is very much on the sunnier side of summer, they offer more light-relief and comedic moments, pushing along the story with a series of half-hearted attempts to thwart the bus dwellers making their way through Europe.

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The audience is clearly more people who remember the original film or fans of Ray Quinn, and the production stays true to this.  In an era where a broken-down car would be replaced by an Uber, a runaway starlet quickly snapped on social media and more red-tape than the bus itself, it stays true to the spirit of the sixties, which being self-aware enough to poke up at stereotypes of characters.  Sure, Living Doll remains one of those songs I can quite believe exists, but in such a summery stage play, it’s easy to forget.

Summer Holiday is one of those feel-good plays that will have you smiling and your gran dancing in the aisles.

It’s on from 12 – 16 June at the New Alexandra Theatre on Suffolk Street in Birmingham. Tickets are available here.

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