It is now 51 years since Summer Holiday starring 60’s heart-throb Cliff Richard hit the big screen and entranced an entire generation with his upbeat croonings and big red bus.
It’s worth remembering, when you watch this latest reboot of the musical classic on stage, this was half a century ago so some of the themes and resolutions of this feel-good moment in time would probably not fly today.
But this polished-up production, which embraces the original premise of sixties youngster exploring freedoms, love and friendships for the first time, is an ode to a golden era in film when rock stars like Cliff cleaned up their rock n’roll images via mass-appeal film.
Staged in the atmospheric environs of Blackpool Opera House at the Winter Gardens, the seats were packed with romantic nostalgia-hunters sporting their Hawaiian shirts tucked into slacks, many already humming the score under the breath, or in one case, out loud.
Anticipation was high and the first cast member to get an enthusiastic cheer was the big red bus itself.
If you are new to Summer Holiday, it tells the story of a group of working-class bus mechanics who convert an unwanted bus into a mobile holiday-home to go on their two-week holiday across Europe on the cheap, rescuing some damsels in distress along the way (an English singing group) and a young American runaway who turns out to be a pop star.
Playing Cliff’s character Don is former X-Factor star Ray Quinn (he came second to Leona Lewis in 2006), who is altogether perfectly cast for the role – it’s hard to find a singer with the range, resonance and musical cojones equal to Cliff but Ray with his magnetic stage presence and and impressive ability to hold a handstand is hands down the best performer in the show.
The small but impressive cast, most of whom were not even born when the film came out, pulls off the largely fast-moving production with the same spirit of happiness and glee intended in the movie and judging by the whoops and singing skills of the audience, no-one found it lacking.
All the musical favourites are on hand, playing to an audience soaking up nostalgia, including classics In the Country, Summer Holiday, Bachelor Boy, Move It, Living Doll, The Young Ones and On the Beach.
This is busy choreography and there are some lightning fast costume-changes and 60’s inspired moves which in a stroke of genius, involved the cast using ‘Heelys’ ( a brand of wheeled shoes popular with five-year-olds) to mimic skiing – how nobody came a cropper off stage is beyond me.
Other examples of impressive touring stage-craft included the big London bus itself which moves around the stage, providing a colourful backdrop to all the on-stage shenanigans.
A very enjoyable show, culminating in a rousing song and dance and perfect for the Blackpool summer holiday market.
I encountered many a smile on the way out.
This appeared first in Blackpool Gazette & associated JP titles HERE