Summer Holiday: The Musical – Edinburgh Playhouse

Summer Holiday is a musical based off the beloved film of the same name from 1963 starring Cliff Richard, Britain’s response to Elvis Presley. It has been a favourite for many decades and encapsulates the cheerful vibe of the sixties for many. In 1996, Summer Holiday was adapted for the stage by Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan and became a great success. Now it has returned with new energy and a great cast.

Summer Holiday follows 4 young English chaps on their fun-packed holiday through southern Europe. On a done-up London bus they stop in Paris, Italy, the Alps, and Greece, having the adventure of their lifetime. Thrown together with a girl band and a young American singer in disguise, they set out on their holiday adventure full of laughter, romance, great songs, and lots of fun.

Don, originally played by Cliff Richard, is portrayed by Ray Quinn, who is best known for reaching the final of X Factor in 2006 and, more recently, winning ITV’s Get Your Act Together. His performance is one of my favourites as he carries the musical with a charming, charismatic, and vocally strong presence. Together with Billy Roberts, Joe Goldie, and Rory Maguire as Steve, Edwin, and Cyril respectively, they make up a charming quartet with strong vocals and a great stage presence. The girl band consisting of Gabby Antrobus’ Mimsie, Alice Baker’s Alma, and Laura Marie Benson’s Angie are equally strong and bounce off each other. Sophie Matthew as American starlet Barbara has a sweet voice and stage persona, however she was overshadowed by the powerful performances of her co-stars in several instances.

The main letdown of this production is the set design. The musical begins with a completely empty stage safe for Bobby Crush as Jerry sitting on a single chair. More people and furniture join him – here I thought they would go for a very simple and dreary representation of a cold, wet London to then contrast with a colourful and happy design for the fun road trip that follows. Unfortunately, and disappointingly, that didn’t happen. The stage remained too dull and dark for me to be swept up into the swirling summer holiday that was promised. Frames were used to show the different stops of the trip that lit up to indicate the location of the group. The moving bus was a nice touch and was used to its full capacity as a prop. In the second act, we finally got some starlight and fairy lights to brighten up the stage a bit more, however, still no summer feeling.

The costumes were sweet and true to the 60s fashion, however with the little amount of set design, the outfits could have been a bit more lively to create some contrast. All in all, the presentation was too plain and, quite frankly boring.

The story itself is very happy-go-lucky but too cheesy for my taste. The rest of the mainly elderly audience obviously thoroughly enjoyed the show and I could hear people singing along to the many good songs. During the encore the audience sang, danced and cheered along, something I have never witnessed in a musical before (not even Grease!).

For fans of the film, and likely Cliff Richard, this musical is a right success and a hoot throughout. For me it was enjoyable but I expected a bit more. If you loved the film, you’ll love this musical!


Summer Holiday is on UK tour until November 2018 and in Edinburgh until 23rd June.

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Leonie Verstegge

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