Understudy Billy Roberts saved the day at the first performance of the musical Summer Holiday at New Wimbledon Theatre last night.
Disaster struck in the interval as the show’s star Ray Quinn (2009 winner of Dancing on Ice, and runner up to Leona Lewis in the X Factor) realised he had aggravated a cracked rib sustained earlier on the hit show’s tour, and needed to go to hospital.
Roberts stepped up admirably, reassuring the audience that they were in safe hands with his fine singing and athletic dancing. He is likely to be in the lead rule for further nights of the Wimbledon run, to allow Quinn’s injury to recover.
This innocent and likeably quaint show is one for Cliff Richard fans of which Wimbledon has a few. Praised as “the musical of the year” by the Daily Mail, it struck me as the ‘Allo ‘Allo (I am tempted to say, Brexit) of musicals: in which a handful of 1960’s bus mechanics drive a London Transport double decker across Europe, larking about and comically speaking pidgin English to make themselves understood by the locals. Led by suave charmer Don (Quinn/Roberts, in the role made famous by Cliff), they rescue damsels in distress, find romance, and save the day at every turn.
They are pursued by domineering mother Stella (scene-stealer Taryn Sudding, with most of the best lines) and her wise-cracking, cross-dressing, but definitely not transgender accomplice Jerry (Wayne Smith), whom try in vain to put a spoke in the gangs wheels to get publicity.
Coming in at under 2hrs 20mins, including an interval, this is a spare production with a pared down set: little more than some painted flats and of course the bus. It comes to life in the musical numbers, which include iconic 1960’s songs Summer Holiday, Bachelor Boy, Living Doll and Put On Your Dancing Shoes.
Summer holidays will be showing at the New Wimbledon Theatre until the 22nd September. You can book your tickets here.
Written by Jenny Booth