Ah the eighties! The decade that brought us shoulder pads, addictive soap operas with wobbly sets, and some of the best pop songs to ever grace the hit parade. We tend to look back through rose tinted spectacles, remembering a sea of bright colours and cheekily named cocktails, Club Tropicana The Musical by Michael Gyngell takes all of these eighties peculiarities and serves them up outrageously kitsch fashion.
It’s a production that lends itself more to panto that full blown musical theatre; there are heroes, villains, and enough innuendo to make your granny blush – think of a hybrid between TV Series’ Benidorm and Hi-De-Hi and your half-way to the kind of cheesy, end of the pier comedy being dished up here.
The plot gets quite complicated as it bends to fit the torrent of eighties hits, as is so often the case with juke-box musicals of this ilk. Olly has been jilted at the alter by Lorraine, and as the honeymoon was non-refundable, both set off (unbeknownst to each other) with a group of friends to enjoy a week of sunshine at The Club Tropicana Hotel where the drinks are free, but only the first one. The hotel itself is in competition for a Best Hotel award and has to deal with an inspector who isn’t quite what she seems, missing flamenco dancers and ghost bookings.
There are plenty of hits to enjoy, from ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ to ‘Take On Me’, though conspicuous by its absence is the one you might be expecting by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. Whether it was deliberate or not, the segue from each piece of dialogue to its associated song became more and more outlandish, cringeworthy or a stroke of genius, you decide.
Joe McElderry leads the cast in a wonderfully extravagant performance as Garry, the hotel entertainer who seems to be the glue holding everything together, he also does a wonderful job of getting the audience involved with the occasional sing along and dance routine.
Cellen Chugg Jones and Karina Hind as Olly and Lorraine sound great together, their duet version of ‘Take On Me’ is impressive, but with so much else going on, it’s difficult to really care whether they get back together or not. Similarly, the other love stories fail to ignite a spark, and Neil McDermott and Emily Tierney don’t get the opportunity to show off what we know they are capable of.
One character does stand out from the cluttered crowd, Kate Robbins as the under-appreciated cleaner, Consuela, has the audience in ever growing fits of hysterics with each and every appearance.
The script isn’t great, but let’s be honest, it’s not taking itself seriously in the slightest, because alongside some double entendres, it’s the music that makes Club Tropicana a feel-good experience, and to accompany those eighties classics is some impressive choreography from Nick Winston, who co-directs the production with Samuel Holmes. The cast have to work hard, but it pays off with high energy numbers like ‘Jump’. The choreography also provides moments for members of the ensemble to shine, pay close attention for excellent performances from Christina Shand and Ben Darcy.
If you look at Club Tropicana The Musical through a modern lens, you could get swept up in a wave of political incorrectness and missed opportunities, but take it with a pinch of salt and you’re bound to have fun, I know I certainly did. Perhaps this musical is just like one of those wobbly-set soap operas – so bad, it’s actually good.