By Alan Coulthard

Most people love a good juke box musical and ‘Club Tropicana’ definitely comes into that category.  In fact, it is quite brilliant! What I like most is that, rather than use the lyrics and titles of the songs to progress the plot in the style of ‘Mamma Mia’ (which some would say is ‘artificial’ and ‘contrived’), in Club Tropicana the songs are weaved more naturally into the plot, usually to humorous effect.  Without wishing to spoil things, watch out for the hilarious use of the lyric ‘take you from behind’ from Bucks Fizz’s classic, ‘Making Your Mind Up’!  (Need I say more?).  Ultimately the emphasis is on fun and making sure the audience has a fantastic time.  The musical does not take itself too seriously, a quality which I found very endearing.  If you enjoyed ‘Benidorm – the Musical’ you will enjoy this for sure, though that musical is more script driven whereas Club Tropicana is driven by the music.  And how brilliant the music is (particularly if you love the eighties).  To name but a few, you have ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, ‘Addicted to Love’, ‘Jump’, ‘Only You’, ‘She drives me crazy’ ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ and the hilariously acted ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ (the Tight Fit song, actually Tight Fit member Denise Waterman is the sister of Club Tropicana’s writer, Michael Gyngell. Tight Fit are actually performing in Cardiff next week!). Many of the songs are sung by hotel entertainment rep Garry, played brilliantly by Joe McElderry, who of course won X Factor in 2009.

However, for me the musical highlight is an astonishing ballad rearrangement of AHA’s ‘Take on Me’, sung by the young lovers Ollie (played by Cellen Chugg Jones) and Lorraine (played by Karina Hind).  This is a real ‘Wow’ moment and made me sit up and take notice of these young actors as vocalists.

Apart from Joe Mc Elderry, the other standout is the super-talented Kate Robbins, who steals the show from a comedy perspective with her portrayal of Spanish cleaner ‘Consuela’.  Kate needs no introduction as a comedy legend – from Spitting Image to ‘Grumpy Old Women’, her credentials are legendary and she also had a number 2 pop hit when she was on ‘Crossroads’ all those years ago.

The plot is uncomplicated – a potential bride and groom (Lorraine and Olly) have doubts about their marriage and jet off separately with friends for some time in the sun to consider their futures.  Inevitably, they all find themselves in the same hotel, naturally called ‘Club Tropicana’, where drinks are (sometimes) free! The hotel is run by childhood friends, Rob (played by Neil McDermott from East Enders) and Serena (played normally by ‘Sugarbabe’ Amelle Berrabah although she was played by her understudy, Camilla Rowland, last night).  Rob’s heart is turned by the villainous ‘Christine’ (played by Emily Tierney, another comedy character).  There is also a concern that the hotel will be closed by an unidentified ‘hotel inspector’, but all ends happily with the hotel passing with flying colours, Rob and Serena admitting their feelings for each other and both couples getting married and living happily ever after.  Congratulations to all the cast and creatives for giving so many people such a fantastic time!