Club Tropicana at New Wimbledon Theatre
Following the Easter heatwave, you’d be forgiven for mistaking New Wimbledon Theatre for a sunny Spanish resort, with its neon signs, Speedos and sangrias. Club Tropicana, currently on UK tour, whisks the audience away to an entertaining evening lined with palm trees and 80s hits; a few tracks in and they may realise it’s more Benidorm than Barcelona – but that’s ok.
Silliness is the name of the game, made evident in the opening number when the reaction to being jilted at the altar is to belt out Don’t Leave Me This Way down a brick mobile. Then it’s a case of ex on the beach as the newly split Lorraine and Olly unintentionally end up at the same destination: Club Tropicana, where the first drink is free and the owners are desperately vying to win a Best Hotel award. Drama, chaos and a predictable plot ensue, accompanied by songs (or snippets) with vaguely related titles.
Fans of 80s music will be treated to a jukebox selection – complete with a live house band – from Cyndi Lauper to A-ha; just don’t expect the musical’s namesake number courtesy of Wham!. There’s Only You when a crush is realised, Making Your Mind Up for character indecision and an interesting rendition of Take On Me as a romantic ballad. However, it does feel as though opportunities are missed from the decade’s infinite songbook, especially when there are already multiple reprises.
Club Tropicana feels like a summery pantomime, with encouraged audience participation (namely dancing to Just Can’t Get Enough). There’s slapstick comedy and an evil baddie, and you’re in safe hands with narrator/entertainment manager Gary, played by former X Factor champion Joe McElderry. He’s confident and cheeky, combined with the smooth impeccable vocals that first propelled him to fame – and no shortage of innuendos. The only downside is that his singing voice is severely underused. Another familiar face and underused talent is ex-Sugababe Amelle Berrabah as hotel co-owner Serena.
Despite plot predictability, there are eccentric turns such as Kate Robbins’s unforgettable performance as maid Consuela. She injects perfect comedic timing into the show, additionally delivering spot-on impressions of Cilla Black, Margaret Thatcher and Dolly Parton. So very 80s. The script is flooded with both subtle and not-so-subtle cultural references but some of the gags don’t land as well, alongside the over-reliance on certain stereotypes for laughs.
This is an unashamedly camp, fun-in-the-sun-filled production that takes any pun and runs with it. The choreography is surprisingly slick, too. From the big hair to sequin suits, the show lets you revel in nostalgia or imagination – if you’re a fan of the 80s, there’s definitely enough for everyone at Club Tropicana.
Photo: Darren Bell
Club Tropicana is at New Wimbledon Theatre from 25th April until 6th July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.