WHEN did it start, the ever-greater dominance in British touring theatre of tribute shows that gaze lovingly back into the past? Possibly around the time when we began to realise, however dimly, that we no longer seem to have much of a future; how else to explain the huge popularity of shows like Club Tropicana, which breezes into Edinburgh this week on a tide of Eighties nostalgia that lends a strange intensity and radiance to what is surely one of the daftest stories ever to grace the Playhouse stage.
Club Tropicana begins when lovely Londoner Lorraine suddenly calls off her wedding, leaving both bridegroom Olly and his mates, and herself and her bridesmaids, at the loosest of ends. Needless to say, everyone ends up at the same Spanish holiday hotel, trying to take advantage of the same defunct honeymoon booking; while – like their counterparts in the equally daft Benidorm The Musical – the hotel staff try to deal with an inspection that might make or break their fortunes.
Does the storyline matter, though? Not at all; because from the moment X Factor star Joe McElderry sashays on stage as our super-camp entertainment host Garry, it’s all about the songs, the glitter, and the huge commitment of an unbelievably dedicated cast. Kate Robbins of Dinnerladies delivers a vocal and comedy star turn as grumpy hotel maid Consuela; and as the cast and audience dance their way through final choruses of Relax, Don’t Do It and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, they seem almost transfigured by joy – perhaps because when you’re partying at the end of the world, there’s nowhere to look but back.