Club Tropicana – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Club Tropicana The Musical – Review
Bradford Alhambra, February 2019
by David Schuster
Club Tropicana The Musical is a performance as outrageous and exuberant as dancing in a turquoise leotard and pink leggings combo at your local disco. Indeed, one of the delights of this funny and cheerfully nostalgic production is that the 80s contained so many iconic and easily caricatured facets: big back-combed hairstyles, big shoulder pads on business ‘power suits’ and mobile phones that were very big indeed. So, when Lorraine calls Olly to break up with him on the day of their wedding, he takes the call on an archetypal ‘brick phone’, and we instantly know what decade we have been transported to.
“Played with panache”
Following this abrupt change of heart, Lorraine, played by Karina Hind, and her friends decide to get away from it all by going on the (non-refundable) honeymoon together. Whilst separately Olly, actor Cellen Chugg Jones, and his laddish mates decide that a holiday is in order too. Fortunately, for love to be able to weave its magic, they all end up at the Club Tropicana Hotel. In parallel, we follow the will-they-won’t-they relationship between nice people Robert and Serena, who run the hotel, and decidedly not nice interloper, Christine. All these elements are drawn together through the ministrations of the ever-enthusiastic Gary, the hotel’s Entertainments Manager, played with panache by the X Factor’s very own Joe McElderry.
The unseen, but very much heard, star of the show is undoubtedly the music of the 1980s. Writer Michael Gyngell’s stroke of genius was to realise that, like Mamma Mia! the ABBA musical with a broader palette, there’s a rich vein of well-loved hits from the period whose titles and lyrics could easily be woven into a narrative.
So, for example, we are treated to ‘Fantastic Day’ for the opening wedding scene, ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ for the break up and 1981 Eurovision Song contest winning ‘Making Your Mind Up’ for the romantic uncertainty. Two musical highlights are ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ by quintessential Eighties band Fine Young Cannibals, and Yazoo’s poignant ‘Only You’. All these, and many more classics from the era, are performed live by the five-piece ‘hotel band’ to the left of the stage, and they do a first-rate job of getting the keyboard and bass heavy dance sound of the time.
Plaudits should be given to Nick Winston for the choreography, as the ensemble dance routines that form the backdrop to many of the key scenes work extremely well, looking like the gaudy MTV music videos of the time. This is an extremely strong and talented cast.
“Revel in the memories”
Club Tropicana though, is very much a musical romantic comedy with an accent on comedy. There’s visual slapstick, and some nicely ironic references to the times: “You answered the phone, you didn’t feed the world!” Kate Robbins delights, giving the comic performance of the night, as Consuela, the long-suffering Spanish cleaning lady. The audience whooped with laughter when she instigated a running gag about ‘having a sign’, and her appearance in the line-up of the hotel’s version of Blind Date had me wiping away tears of merriment. However, it’s her rendition of ‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue’ that really brought the house down.
I’d recommend this to anyone looking for the perfect antidote to February’s gloom. It’s a chance to get swept away to times of sun, sea and Sangria. For those, like me, who lived through the Eighties and went to clubs where plastic palm trees and cocktails with suggestive names were de rigueur, you’ll revel in the memories. If you’re too young to remember it first-hand, this is your chance to experience those mad times, and answer the question: Did they really dress like that? Yes, they did.