Writer: Michael Gyngell
Director: Samuel Holmes & Nick Winston
It’s June, the weather in Scotland is, well, Scottish. So where can you get guaranteed sunshine, sea and Joe McElderry? Club Tropicana: The Musical – that’s where. From the producers of Hairspray, Club Tropicana sets itself in a holiday resort in the 80s, a decade famous for big hair, wide shoulders pads, but more importantly fantastic music.
The inevitable happens in the land of romantic-comedy musicals, someone is left at the altar. Shocking, I know. Encouraged by the single worst ‘friend’ in any show, Lorraine has cold feet before the wedding. Rather than lose out on the honeymoon, Lorraine and her pals travel to Club Tropicana. A great idea so great her ex-fiancé has the same plan. Meanwhile, Club Tropicana is at risk of poor press from a hotel inspector. Misunderstandings occur, hearts are broken and mended, and we have a sea of musical numbers. It’s a cookie-cutter jukebox musical. It’s kitsch, extremely predictable, but it is enjoyable.
Making Your Mind Up, Just Can’t Get Enough and Physical, Club Tropicana has fab taste in eighties music. Using them to their fullest to get the blood pumping in Edinburgh, so much so that we can forgive weak vocals from cast members. While no one performs poorly, a select few are flatter than would be expected. That though is not the case for Joe McElderry, Cellen Chugg Jones and Kate Robbins. Chugg Jones, playing Olly is the one-dimensional fiancé of all romantic jukebox productions. He does, however, have a charming delivery, and a set of pipes which are hideously underused. His duet of A-Ha’s classic gem Take on Me with Karina Hind is a surprise as he hits the high notes.
On the subject of vocals, McElderry is in his element as usual. His abilities are understandably the strongest in the cast, with one lovely lady belting out ahead on occasion, but more on her later. His charged presence is part of why Club Tropicana works, falling into the danger zone a few times, but McElderry’s bouncing personality keeps the club afloat. Gearing the audience up to dance, sing and laugh along with the show – it is in large part to McElderry that the production works.
Oh Consuela, you wonderful woman you. Kate Robbins completely owns the stage for every moment she appears. We long for it, quite often waiting for her character’s next appearance. The miserable cleaner, bellhop, chef and part-time diva comes equipped with all of Robbins’ tremendous range of talents. Her vocals surpass a number of the performers, her comedic prowess, the best on stage. Her mimicry, physically and vocally for the likes of Dolly Parton and The Iron Lady herself is deserving of praise.
Her praise is deserved, but even Robbins’ is subject to confused writing. At some point, two productions of Club Tropicana were floating around the room. One an above average Jukebox musical, taking risqué jokes and pushing them to the nth degree to tremendous effect. The other is a sub-par romantic comedy with cheap gags. For some reason, writer Michael Gyngell mixes these and we have a show which has toilet humour and predictable plots littering an otherwise enjoyable production.
So, is Club Tropicana bringing anything fresh to the genre? No. Does it move away from tired stereotypes? No… Is it attempting to be something it isn’t? Certainly not. Club Tropicana knows precisely what it is, which is fun with a cheesy, glittery and humongous capital ‘F’. So pop on those socks and sandals, slather on some factor 50, down a few slippery nipples and bask in the ridiculousness that is Club Tropicana.
Review originally published for Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/club-tropicana-the-playhouse-edinburgh/