Theatre Review: Club Tropicana at The Alhambra

CLUB Tropicana’s name is perhaps deliberately misleading, suggestive of a Wham! or George Michael driven jukebox musical, but surprisingly doesn’t even feature the titular 80s’ classic. Instead, this vibrant new musical takes a plethora of 80s’ tunes as the soundtrack to shenanigans in a Spanish holiday resort.

Michael Gyngell (co-adaptor of Summer Holiday! the stage show) transports us to the 80s’ through Betamax references and giant shoulder pads, opening the show with a groom jilted by his bride. Diana Krall’s “Look of Love” sees the bride dump her fiancé via a monstrously-sized mobile phone framed by hideous orange and brown patterned wallpaper. Meanwhile, a church service awaits on Diego Pitarch’s split stage. Devastated groom, Olly (Cellen Chugg Jones) heads a strong opening song, begging “Don’t Leave me This Way” as an exceedingly chipper congregation look on.

Not wanting to dwell on the heartache, Gyngell swiftly moves the action to a bright pastel-splashed set with the hotel’s name above a permanent reception desk and wheel-on bar. In a compere role, entertainer and general hotel skivvy Gary, (Joe McElderry), gets the audience moving in a cheesy dance routine with an X-Factor in-joke (McElderry was the 2009 winner).

Keeping the mood light, a splattering of 80s’ hits depict the doomed couple re-embracing singledom as they both predictably wind up in their chosen honeymoon destination. Here the hotel’s crudely stereotypical aged and tacky cleaner, Consuela (Kate Robbins) is comic gold, undoubtedly holding the show together. As the hotel vies for the best hotel award, undergoing a secret inspection, “Conny” takes one for the team, trying to make the hotel appear full by impersonating different characters, including Cilla Black, Margaret Thatcher, Shirley Bassey, Jim Bowen, Dolly Parton and Tina Turner. She plays the panto-dame role with comically-timed cocktail menu readings, inappropriately punctuating conversations and giving a funny karaoke rendition of “Brown Eyes Blue”, alongside a slightly more tragi-comic “I Could be so Good for you”.

Beyond Robbins, Rebecca Mendoza singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is particularly amusing, Amelle Berrabah’s performance of Yazoo’s “Only You” is moving and Chugg Jones ones again proves to be one of the strongest performers, singing Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives me Crazy”.

Although much of the cast and track listing are perfectly matched for a breezy summer show, Club Tropicana is not without its faults with a rushed Blind Date competition, the occasional slightly flat performance (“Addicted to Love” comes to mind) and some duets missing their spark (“Jump”).

With a predictable plot, dangerously close at times to Benidorm: The Musical, Club Tropicana still has its surprises and is both vibrant and energetic but feels like there’s a missing link. Panto style audience involvement, Hi-de-Hi! sexual innuendos, popular feel-good tunes and an inbuilt audience fan base ensure Club Tropicana gets its standing ovation, once again proving that “Girls [do indeed] Just Want to Have Fun” and this audience “Just Can’t Get Enough”.

Leo Owen