My earliest birthday present I can remember is receiving a VCR tape of Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday, and ever since then, this musical has held a special place in my heart. Bolton Octagon Theatre’s production definitely lived up to my expectations of this show.
Based on the 1963 film, this show is jam-packed with catchy tunes to twist to, energetic dance routines (including an exceptional flamenco dance) and the ability to visit multiple European countries without even leaving cheery old Bolton.
This site-specific production, directed by Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti, takes the audience on tour around Bolton. Starting at the Bolton bus station where the cast prepares for their holiday, to jumping on a double-decker bus with the cast for a sing-along.
The cast aren’t just talented performers, but also talented musicians, as every cast member makes up the band and accompanies all the well-loved songs. Shoutout to Isobel Bates, who manages to make playing the trumpet and flute, with a second between the two, look effortless and sassy.
Living up to Cliff Richard’s stellar performance of Don is the very talented and easy on the eye Michael Peavoy, who did get a couple of wolf whistles during the shower scene. Peavoy’s vocal ability is beautiful, and you can’t help but fall in love with his carefree spirit as a bachelor boy turned hopeless romantic.
Eleanor Brown plays Barbra, the movie star who wants a normal life. After running away from Momager Stella and stowing away on the bus, Barbra falls in love with bachelor boy Don, but can she change his mind about relationships?
Each character has their own little storyline. I do have to applaud the director’s decision to swap genders of one of the girls and turn them into a male character. Al, played by Robert Jackson, ends up falling in love with Edwin, played by Luke Thornton, and it’s so lovely to see their relationship develop on stage.
The singing is so strong and powerful by all performers, but I especially loved the deep and soulful tones of Alexander Bean, playing the role of Cyril, whose low voice makes you smile.
The stand out performer for me though was Barbra Hockaday’s performance of Momager Stella, who manages to do it all in this production. The icing on the cake was a flamenco dance that made me cry with laughter. A true comic performer with a larger than life stage presence.
The whole production is heartwarming, feel good and very silly. This production gets you in the mood for the summer and up and dancing by the end of the show. You need to see this production before it closes.