Review: Benidorm Live at Liverpool Empire ****
Benidorm the series may have finally taken its towel off the ITV sun lounger and headed for home.
But it seems its spirit lives on – in all its big, bold, brassy, camp and colourful glory – in this new spin off stage show doing roaring business spreading sunshine across the UK over the British winter.
In the 1970s we Brits started flocking to Benidorm and other resorts on Spain’s Costa Blanca.
And Derren Litten’s Confessions of a Carry On Costas-style show is certainly a homage to the comedy of the time. I haven’t heard so many pussy jokes since a pink-rinsed Molly Sudgen regailed Grace Brothers co-workers with tales of her home life.
Who needs a double entendre when a single one will suffice? And the show’s saucy, seaside-set script delivers with a cavalcade of crudery which is much to the delight of the audience.
Litten and the cast keep up an impressive laugh rate throughout Benidorm Live’s two hours 10 minutes running time, as the show’s favourites work both their verbal and physical comedy muscles. Resistance is futile - even for the most curmudgeonly.
The all-inclusive Solana is about to become subject to a takeover by another hotel group and its rag tag of misfits fear they’re for the chop. So, when manager Joyce (Sherrie Hewson) hears there are some undercover hotel inspectors prowling the premises, she urges the staff to go all out to make a good impression.
The cast of Benidorm Live. Top: Tony Maudsley (Kenneth) and Adam Gillen (Liam). Photos by Paul Coltas
But who are the inspectors? Mild-mannered posh bloke Ben (Bradley Clarkson) and his snobby wife Sophie (Tricia Adele-Turner)? Middlesbrough swinger ‘Gay’ Derek (a booming Damian Williams)? Or someone else?
One of the strengths of the show is the cast that’s been assembled, with many of the TV series’ regulars returning to duty, including Hewson, Jake Canuso as lothario Matteo, Janine Duvitski (swinger Jacqueline), Shelley Longworth (Sam), singer Asa Elliott, and the delightful double act of Adam Gillen (Liam) and Liverpool’s Tony Maudsley who plays larger-than-life crimper Kenneth Du Beke.
Even the Liverpool legend that is Elsie Kelly – who appeared in the TV show for a total of eight years - was in on opening night, albeit watching from the stalls.
Each Benidorm regular receives a warm roar of approval as they step on to Mark Walters’ visually appealing Deco-inspired hotel set which shifts locations from reception to pool side to salon via a neat double revolve.
Benidorm Live may not be subtle – OK, is anything BUT subtle – but it's a whole lot of crowd-pleasing fun on a cold and damp November night. Y’Viva Espana!