Liam Rudden: At this Club Tropicana it’s laughs not drinks that are flowing

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“CLUB Tropicana, drinks are free...” so sang George Michael as Wham rocketed up the charts in 1983, but in a new musical sharing the same name it’s the laughs that are flowing.

Club Tropicana The Musical - as the title suggests, an 80’s jukebox affair - sets off on a UK tour at the start of 2019, checking in at The Playhouse from 11 to 15 June.

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited down to London for the first cast read through of a script that, it has to be said, is one of the funniest I’ve heard in a while.

I say heard as a read through does exactly what it says, gives the cast a chance to read through their lines for the first time and the writer and production team the opportunity to hear the flow of the piece and decide what tweaks or re-writes are required.

Which is how I came to be sitting in a top floor studio of The Umbrella Rooms facing the cast of 13, all seated in a horseshoe formation around three long tables - and what a cast.

Star of the show, X Factor favourite Joe McElderry, is joined by impressionist, actor, singer and song writer Kate Robbins (she’s also mum of Emily Atack, currently battling it out to be Queen of the Jungle in I’m a Celebrity...), ex-Eastender Neil McDermott, best known as the Square’s Ryan Molloy, and one time Sugababe Amelle Berrabah.

The quartet are backed by a strong ensemble of musical theatre performers.

The story, a tale of loves lost and found against the backdrop of a lads’ and a lasses’ holiday to the struggling Spanish hotel Club Tropicana is not just a laugh a minute but surprisingly touching too.

McElderry plays outrageous Holiday Rep Garry, always ready with a barbed quip and an innocent smile, It’s his job to keep hotel guests entertained.

As hotel owners and best friends Serena and Robert, Berrabah and McDermott bring an unusual level of truth to their roles, lifting it above the usual ‘sun, sea and sangria’ tales.

Stealing the show at this read through, however, was Robbins’ Spanish maid Consuela who came to the table fully formed and hilariously funny, even the company couldn’t resist her and frequently dissolved into fits of giggles. A series of hilarious impressions, including a lorra lorra Cilla added to the entertainment.

Of course, for many the soundtrack of the show will prove as big a pull and all the 80’s classics are there, Heaven 17’s Temptation, Yazoo’s Don’t Go, Tight Fit’s The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Bucks Fizz’s Making Your Mind Up and Aha’s Take On Me just a few of the favourites brought back to life.

Turning to producer Mark Goucher at the end of read through I asked, “Are you happy?”

“I’m a producer, I’m never happy” he laughed, although his reactions throughout suggested he was secretly very pleased with what he’d seen.

So he should be, Club Tropicana is the sort of feel-good fun musical we need right now, the perfect mix of nostalgia and storytelling.

Book your tickets quick.