I could feel a touch of apprehension clinging to me as I climbed the long ascent to Kingswood School’s theatre this evening. Anyone who knows me can attest to how little a piece like Summer Holiday, a Cliff Richard musical about four crooning boys finding love on a double-decker bus ride through Europe, would normally appeal to me. My instinctive reaction to the tame sentimentality of such shows is normally to internally wince or, more often than not, run away. Thankfully, due to the sheer conviction of the cast and a constantly vivid and vibrant stage show, neither of these negative reactions occurred during Zenith Youth Theatre’s performance. In fact, I rather enjoyed myself.
Now, don’t get me wrong: it was corny. The play is saccharine-sweet, Barbie-pink bubblegum pop, with a plot the depth of a paddling pool and the kind of lyrical content you could cut into slices and serve with crackers. But the sheer energy of the young cast, and the fact that they unashamedly embraced the cheese-factor throughout, turned this into a joyful, refreshing experience, something a million miles away from the doom and gloom that so often surrounds us in everyday life. The four boys in particular (played by Harry Dallimore, George Miles, Sam Feierabend and Ed Corbishley) bring a great deal of humour and fun to their role, as do the female three-piece singing troupe, Do Re Mi, that the boys meet along the way (Molly Dallimore, Georgie McSherry and Caitlin Mazza). Beth Mitchell stands out as the run-away starlet Barbara, chased by her fame-obsessed mother, Stella (Rebecca Wright) and bumbling agent Jerry (Finley Hodges), both of whom add a dash of farcical whimsy to proceedings.
Yet to single out particular performances is to take focus away from the sheer skill and vibrancy of the entire cast and chorus, all of whom contributed their full vigour to this evening’s show and should be commended.
And this is where I come to the main attraction: the songs. The sound coming from the chorus during the many, many toe-tapping teenybopper tunes was immense, with some lovely layered harmonies. Barring a couple of technical hitches with microphones, the singing was generally well-executed and finely arranged. However, it was the choreography that really stood out during these numbers, a blend of simplicity and complexity, nailing everything from small, reserved ballads with key cast members to giant, show-stopping 50-strong extravaganzas. The addition of a live band, a stripped back six-piece with a lovely sound, was the icing on the cake, and many of the show’s songs are still firmly stuck in my head.
There are certainly other factors which contributed to my enjoyment of the piece.
One could speak of the stitch-perfect costumes, for example, which complimented both the vibrancy of the play and the Sixties setting flawlessly. The magnificently crafted movable bus set, wonderfully versatile with a variety of retractable walls, also stood out.
But it is the young actors who stole the show tonight, bringing a level of joy that could warm even the coldest of hearts. It won’t change the world, but it might cheer us up a bloody bit.
For Theatre Bath