Review: Club Tropicana. Nottingham Theatre Royal. 8-13 July (touring)

Club Tropicana the Musical arrives at the Theatre Royal Nottingham with all the flash and subtlety of a pair of neon leg-warmers. It’s a no-frills, in-your-face celebration of all the cheesiest pop hits of the 1980s. Throw in a splash of farce, a ‘love-island’ type storyline and a few well-known faces, and hey-presto, another ‘juke box’ musical is born.

When bride to be Lorraine jilts Olly at the altar, both decide to escape the pressures with a holiday in the sun. But guess what? They’ve both checked in to the same hotel! I know! Who’d believe it!? Meantime, the hotel is under pressure with a hotel inspector visit, confusion over bookings, and an entertainments manager whose wardrobe looks like a stick of rock.

Squeezing over 20 of the 1980s top pop hits into this slim story is quite a feat but they do it, and even manage to make some of them relevant to the story. From classics like ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ through ‘Addicted to Love’, ‘Temptation’, ‘She Drives Me Crazy’, ‘Making Your Mind Up’ and ‘Jump’, it’s a journey down memory lane for most of the audience, who relish the opportunity to revisit their youth. The ensemble is energetic and enthusiastic in their delivery of all the songs, and the choreography has echoes of favourite dance moves from many an 80s movie. There’s a lot of love in the house for the crop tops and big hair, the padded shoulders and loud shirts, and the costume designer clearly has a great time in bringing this all to life.

Leading the cast is Joe McElderry as Garry, the entertainments manager, and from the opening scene, McElderry gets a great reception from the crowd. With the ‘camp’ cranked up to high, he delivers many of the biggest tunes in the show. Adding to the comedy quota is Kate Robbins, as hotel chief cook and bottle-washer, who manages to shoe-horn many of her most well-loved impressions into the show. Robbins is also a capable singer, and is physically very expressive and comical.

Amelle Berrabah, a former Sugababe, makes her musical theatre debut, and her natural delivery and strong, soulful voice make her one of the highlights. ‘Take On Me’, which she sings as Serena, with Neil McDermott as Robert, is one of the few moments that create an emotional connection in an otherwise superficial plot.

If you like your entertainment kitsch and over the top, want to bop in your seat to your favourite 80s tunes, and enjoy a fizzy cocktail of suggestive jokes, well known songs and athletic dance, Club Tropicana could be the place for you. As the boys from Wham said, ‘Let me take you to the place, where membership’s a smiling face’. Say cheese!

 

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