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 The plot is as gossamer thin as the condom jokes and other outdated innuendos that desperately try to hold the threadbare dialogue together.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 the Musical
New Wimbledon Theatre until 27th April then UK Tour continues
Last ten shows covered by this reviewer: