Tag Archives: Neil McDermott

Club Tropicana the Musical
★★

New Wimbledon Theatre & UK Tour

Club Tropicana the Musical

New Wimbledon Theatre & UK Tour

Reviewed – 23rd April 2019

★★

 

“Like the overblown cocktails that “Club Tropicana” serves up, it is all show and little substance”

 

As the opening bars of ABC’s ‘The Look of Love’ open the show, we get a taste of what it must have been like, back when the announcement to remind us to switch off our mobile phones was aimed at the lucky minority. “Club Tropicana”, a show that joins a growing brand of jukebox musicals that celebrate a particular phase of our cultural history, wastes no time in letting us know we are on a journey back to the eighties.

Despite being a time of massive change: the decade of Conservatism, Cold War and computers; Chernobyl and the Challenger disaster; the rise of AIDS and the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is often argued in retrospect that nothing really defines the 1980s. Similarly, despite a maelstrom of MTV hits shoehorned into it, it can be argued that there is little that defines this show. Both are sweeping criticisms, however, and consequently unfair. This musical is, in essence, simply a nod to the silliness of the decade and its aim is purely for the audience to have fun – and, indeed, make fun of the cheesiness of it all.

But even if you approach it with low expectations, Michael Gyngell’s book struggles to reach even those. The plot is as gossamer thin as the condom jokes and other outdated innuendos that desperately try to hold the threadbare dialogue together. I’m not sure it even tries to succeed in this, such is the laziness of the writing that obviously decides to rely purely on the iconic 80s soundtrack to hold the narrative together. Lorraine (Karina Hind) jilts Olly (Cellen Chugg Jones) on their wedding day. Not wanting to waste a honeynoom, she heads off to Sunny Spain with her two best buddies instead. Meanwhile Olly drowns his sorrows by jetting off with his two best men. To the same hotel as Lorraine, of course.

The experience is like turning up at a half-built resort, where the shell of a swimming pool is as shallow as the characters that swan around it searching for a personality. But the staff are doing their best. And it has to be said that, while there is little investment in story or characterisation, the cast, without exception, give it everything they have. The ensemble is a show unto themselves as they faultlessly execute Nick Winston’s top-notch choreography.

There are some fine voices on show particularly Amelle Berrabah and Neil McDermott as the hotel receptionists, blind to their mutual yearning but not to the onstage chemistry these two actors have. But the stand out is actor, singer, impressionist Kate Robbins as Consuela the cleaner. A dynamic presence, Robbins peppers the scenes with her expert comedic timing and mimicry. A surreal moment when she sings “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” in Spanish, dressed as Adam Ant is almost worth the ticket price alone!

Without a doubt, this show is a crowd pleaser. But it is far too aware of that fact and therefore, unforgivably, it takes for granted its appeal. Like the overblown cocktails that “Club Tropicana” serves up, it is all show and little substance.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

 

Club Tropicana

Club Tropicana the Musical

New Wimbledon Theatre until 27th April then UK Tour continues

 

Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Rip It Up – The 60s | ★★★ | Garrick Theatre | February 2019
The Grand Expedition | ★★★★★ | Secret Location | February 2019
Carl’s Story | ★★★★ | Tabard Theatre | March 2019
Fiddler on the Roof | ★★★★★ | Playhouse Theatre | March 2019
Maggie May     | ★★★★ | Finborough Theatre | March 2019
Pain(t) | ★★★★ | Time and Leisure Studio | March 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | Park Theatre | March 2019
The Project | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | March 2019
The Rubenstein Kiss | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Review of The Wind in the Willows – 5 Stars

Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

London Palladium

Opening Night – 29th June 2017

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“My-oh-my, a summertime hit, Poop Poop!”

 

Taking a novel that’s been much loved for more than a century and turning it into a stage musical isn’t ever going to be an easy task. Stray too much from the original (Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’) or tamper too much with the characters and you risk alienating generations of fans. Make it too safe and you end up leaving theatre goers disappointed.

Thankfully, this is a production that should delight everyone whether they’ve read the novel or not. With Julian Fellowes (book) paired with multi award winning Stiles & Drewe (music and lyrics), this was almost guaranteed to be a hit. Wind in the Willows is the third Fellowes penned musical now in the West End, alongside Half a Sixpence (also featuring the work of Stiles & Drewe)  and School of Rock. This man is frustrating talented!

The staging at first looks quite simple. An opening set that seems to be just a series of concentric semi-circles; yet these make you focus immediately centre stage and there’s clearly a point to this. The sets throughout are designed almost symmetrically around the centre of the stage, key elements of the show (you’ll get to see everything from a horse drawn caravan to a canal barge) are strategically placed so your eye doesn’t wander. So although simple at first glance, Peter McKintosh has created one of the neatest set designs I’ve seen in a long time.

McKintosh is also responsible for costume and with it the specific challenges of the anthropomorphism of the characters. Again this has been achieved in quite a pleasantly simple, yet delightful way. There are thankfully few complete ‘animal costumes’ on show; the foxes garbed bizarrely as fox hunters are the nearest you get to this. The rest of the show’s fauna is mostly created through a range of subtle touches such as colouring or a tail or ears. An exception to this is the elaborate Gaultier-like spines of the scout uniform attired hedgehog family.

The plot adheres mostly to Grahame’s original with a little bit of artistic license thrown in (an online spat recently took place about Mr Otter and Portly now becoming Mrs Otter and Portia). It’s very easy to follow what’s going on so can easily be enjoyed by all the family. The action ranges from gentle meandering in boats to in-auditorium surprises.

Casting is near perfect; Rufus Hound as the pompous and impulsive Toad is outstanding throughout, Gary Wilmot as the slightly curmudgeonly Badger brings a dignified air to the show and Neil McDermott’s spiv like Chief Weasel (with curiously long tongue) was just a delight to watch (Weazelz rule!). The only character who didn’t really excite was Denise Welch’s Otter that just felt a little flat.

Stand out performance of the show goes to the double act of Mole (Craig Mather) and Ratty (Simon Lipkin). The pair worked perfectly together and deservedly got one of the biggest rounds of applause. Craig Mather, already having starred in Les Miserables is surely set to become one of our best musical theatre actors.

The songs are all enjoyable enough as you’d expect from Stiles & Drewe. The Wassailing Mice sung by the field mice on Mole’s house is charming and The Hedgehog’s Nightmare is a nice little comedy number; the other songs range from the gentle heart warming numbers such as A Friend is Still a Friend to the rousing likes of We’re Taking Over the Hall.

Further mentions must go to director Rachel Kavanaugh whose direction is top class and of course to the talented orchestra led by Toby Higgins. Finally, the other members of the cast for being weasally distinguished weasels, stotally different stoats alongside a myriad of other creatures.

Great songs, some sharp one liners, a few surprises here and there (generally from Mr Toad) and a plot that is easily followed by all (take note Bat Out of Hell) will make The Wind in the Willows appeal to all ages.

 

Reviewed by David A Hughes

Production Photography by Darren Bell

 

Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

is at the London Palladium until 9th September

 

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