Camp, cheesy and full of fun, CLUB TROPICANA THE MUSICAL is the 1980s answer to LOVE ISLAND
Ever since I saw George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley live it up in the so-called ‘Club Tropicana’, I’ve wanted to go. After all, this is a place where drinks are free and there’s fun and sunshine enough for everyone. So when the producers of hit UK tour HAIRSPRAY decided to make a brand-new 80s musical inspired by the Wham! hit, I was naturally in.
Set at the vibrant Club Tropicana Hotel in Majorca, CLUB TROPICANA is the 1980s answer to LOVE ISLAND or, more appropriately, EX ON THE BEACH. When the newly jilted Olly (Cellen Chugg Jones) unintentionally bumps into his ex, Lorraine (Karina Hind) at the Spanish resort, drama and chaos ensues. But the couple aren’t the only ones having a hard time. Hotel owners Robert (Nye Rees) and Serena (Amelle Berrabah) are trying desperately to win a Best Hotel award but, unbeknown to them, are being sabotaged by rival hotel owner Christine (Emily Tierney).
As you can guess by the synopsis, CLUB TROPICANA is not a show to be taken too seriously. In fact, it’s about as far from serious as you can get. Silliness is the name of the game here as iconic pop anthems from the era are cheesily weaved into the storyline – the opening sequence in which Olly belts out DON’T LEAVE ME THIS WAY into a brick mobile after being jilted at the altar just one example of this. Add in plenty of innuendos, encouraged audience participation, some slapstick comedy and an evil baddie and you have yourself a summery pantomime of sorts.
Just like a pantomime, the show works best when the cast just go for it, Joe McElderry particularly standing out here as camp entertainment manager Garry. Confident and cheeky, McElderry drives the narrative, speaking directly to the audience and encouraging them to get up and dance. The only downside is that his strong singing voice is severely underused. The same can be said for ex-Sugababe Amelle Berrabah, who makes her musical theatre debut as hotel co-owner Serena.
The biggest laughs go to Kate Robbins in her pantomime dame style performance as Spanish maid Consuela. Robbins’ comic timing and daft characterisation is hysterical and goes a long way to holding the show together, her version of Crystal Gayle’s DON’T IT MAKE MY BROWN EYES BLUE standing out as a highlight.
Of course, CLUB TROPICANA isn’t perfect by any means. The plot is extremely thin and utterly predictable and the script is flooded with not-so-subtle cultural references and gags, some of which don’t land as well as expected.
Disappointingly, the songs also aren’t used to their greatest advantage, many of them often picked only for their titles and a fair few are only partly sung. There’s also not a sniff of the fabulous 1983 Wham! hit which gives the show its title.
That said, this is an unashamedly camp, fun-in-the-sun-filled production that revels in nostalgia. Nick Winston’s choreography is also excellent, the ensemble dance numbers particularly standing out, forming the backdrop for many of the key scenes.
If you’re a fan of the 1980s and aren’t looking for something too serious then you’re sure to enjoy CLUB TROPICANA. It’s cheesy as hell, but it works.
CLUB TROPICANA THE MUSICAL runs at the Opera House, Manchester until 8 June 2019
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.