Waterloo East Theatre
Reviewed – 16th May 2019
“If you’re a lover of the old Aussie soaps and fancy a few drinks and a silly night out with a group of friends, this is the musical for you”
Summer Street is the brain child of Andrew Norris, who has written the book, music and lyrics and also directs this production. It is a light-hearted homage to the sunny Australian soaps that the UK fell in love with in the late ’80s and ’90s, and Norris shows his fondness for them in this affectionate and very silly pastiche. The musical’s premise is that the four main stars of the show have been invited back to film some special anniversary episodes, culminating in a live broadcast, to mark the fact that the last ever episode was aired five years previously. The show begins with a collage of the ridiculously overblown ways in which the characters each met their deaths, and we then see the actors rehearsing, whilst also giving us an insight into the lives they have been living away from the small screen. Aside from the soap’s star, Steph, whose stardom has continued in a successful spin-off soap, The Wallabies, these aren’t happy stories: Bruce has been left by his wife and is a heavy drinker, Angie works at the fish counter of Speedy Mart, and Paul is a feckless stoner.
There is a nice little twist to conclude the piece, which, incidentally, is much stronger altogether in the second half, but, in the main, Summer Street is a straightforward gag-driven comedy; the one long-playing gag here being the absurd plotlines and hammy acting that characterised Neighbours and Home and Away, but stole the UK’s heart nonetheless, and piloted Kylie Minogue to superstardom. Angie’s main character Bobbi nods to Kylie’s Charlene days, and Paul’s Brock has more than a touch of Jason Donovan, but it is Steph’s Mrs Mingle who absolutely steals the show. Julie Clare is magnificent as Steph and brings a West End professionalism to her performance that completely outclasses her material. She has a fabulous voice and superb comic timing; she simply radiates showmanship, and is even able to lift the cringey tribute song Lucky, Plucky Me!. Norris is extremely lucky to have her on board, as she really does carry this show.
That being said, the three other cast members are all strong and give committed performances throughout. Sarah-Louise Young really comes into her own in the second half and gives a fantastic punchy rendition of her big solo number Chains Around My Heart, as well as a terrific and very funny cameo as her secondary character Sheila in the live broadcast sequence. Despite being hampered by laryngitis, Simon Snashall was engaging as the Eeyore-like Bruce, and Myke Cotton made the most of the ageing juvenile lead Paul.
Summer Street is a pretty flimsy show, and neither the script nor the songs withstand close scrutiny, but the performers are all of a higher calibre than the material. If you’re a lover of the old Aussie soaps and fancy a few drinks and a silly night out with a group of friends, this is the musical for you.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Simon Snashall
Waterloo East Theatre until 2nd June
Previously reviewed at this venue: