Theatre Review: BENIDORM LIVE – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Tony Maudsley as Kenneth and Adam Gillen as Liam in BENIDORM LIVE

Tony Maudsley as Kenneth and Adam Gillen as Liam in BENIDORM LIVE. Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

Cheesy, brash and gloriously OTT, Derren Litten’s BENIDORM LIVE successfully makes the transition from screen to stage

There is always a risk when TV programmes make the transition from screen to stage, especially one popular as BENIDORM. The award-winning comedy, which ran for 10 years on ITV before finally being decommissioned earlier this year, won over the hearts of its audience with its eccentric mix of characters, comical storylines and tongue-in-cheek humour. Now, Derren Litten’s creation has gained a whole host of new fans as an extended remix of the TV show takes to the stage.

Borrowing plot elements from Series 1, BENIDORM LIVE follows the holidaymakers and staff at the fictional all-inclusive Solana Resort in Benidorm, Spain. The stage show sees series regulars Joyce (Sherrie Hewson), Mateo (Jake Canuso), Jacqueline (Janine Duvitski), Sam (Shelley Longworth), Liam (Adam Gillen) and Kenneth (Tony Maudsley) attempt to deal with undercover hotel inspectors, a posh couple who are forced to spend a night in the cheap-as-chips hotel and a gay swinger with the hots for hairdresser Kenneth.

Played out against Mark Walters’ colourful set, which cleverly rotates between the poolside, reception, salon and Neptune’s bar, BENIDORM LIVE is a show that delivers exactly what it says on the tin – a riotous mix of comedy, music and laugh-out-loud gags. While the structure is looser than that of the TV show, director Ed Curtis brings everything together so briskly and effortlessly that you almost feel like there has been no break since the end of the last episode.

Bradley Clarkson as Ben and Janine Duvitski as Jacqueline in BENIDORM LIVE

Bradley Clarkson as Ben and Janine Duvitski as Jacqueline in BENIDORM LIVE. Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

Much of show’s success lies in the talented cast who never miss a beat. Sherrie Hewson gets the biggest cheer from the audience as Joyce Temple-Savage, the glamorous hotel manager whose steely demeanour is dogged by the news that the Solana is being lined up for a takeover with everyone’s jobs at risk. Jake Canuso brings all the smarm and slickness of womanizing barman Mateo to life in hilarious fashion while Shelley Longwood’s Sam finally gets the stage time that her character previously lacked, demonstrating her beautiful voice in THERE YOU’LL BE.

But the best of the comedy is left for Tony Maudsley’s Kenneth and Adam Gillen’s Liam, proprietors of the famous Blow’N’Go salon, who provide the most outrageous laughs. The magnificent Janine Duvitski is also on top form as inveterate swinger Jacqueline, who together with newbie Damian Williams as Derek, provide an abundance of double entendres and pitch-perfect comic timing.

Sherrie Hewson as Joyce Temple-Savage and Company in BENIDORM LIVE

Sherrie Hewson as Joyce Temple-Savage and Company in BENIDORM LIVE. Photo Credit: Paul Coltas.

Yet while Litten’s stage debut is certainly entertaining, its plot is a little thin on the ground, more suited to a 30-minute episode than a two-hour stage show. The second half is effectively transformed into a long karaoke night in the Neptune Lounge, led by the fine vocals of Solana’s resident crooner Asa Elliott who belts out tunes like LIVIN’ LA VIDA LOCA, SHANG-A-LANG, SPANISH EYES and Y VIVA ESPANA.

Just like the place itself, BENIDORM LIVE is cheesy, brash and gloriously OTT but this doesn’t seem to deter the audience, who cheer and whoop at every opportunity and relish every Carry-On style joke. Even if you’ve never seen the TV show before, you’re sure to be caught up with the humour of it all.

4 out of 5 stars

BENIDORM LIVE runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 1 December 2018