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That'll Be The Day. Embassy Theatre Skegness. 18 September 2021

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

That'll Be The Day - 35th Anniversay Show

Presige Productions

Embassy Theatre Skegness

Saturday 18 September 2021

I should begin by saying that for the first time in ages, the photos featured on this page are not owned by Review Culture as there was a pre-show announcement that there was to be "Strictly No Photography" and so some of the photos we are using might not feature the 2021 tour cast. If anyone owns these photos and wishes us to remove them, please notify us and we will do so.

That'll Be The Day is an immensely popular touring production that is currently celebrating its 35th anniversay. It has an enormous fan base, which was evidenced by the sell-out performance tonight in Skegness. The truck outside the theatre, bedecked in the tour's livery, announced its presence to anyone wandering past the theatre. Branding is all important in this day and age. A lot of money has been spent on the show in making it a huge, colourful spectacle. It knows its audience and delivers exactly what they want.

Unlike other touring rock 'n' roll shows, That'll Be the Day is not concerned with recreating the sound of the late 50s and early 60's alone. This show has higher ambition and seeks to perform music from that late 50s through to the 80s. It is a pastiche. A cabaret on a grand scale. The musicians dress accordingly for each set and the show is interspersed with comic routines often seen in seaside variety shows. But what is undeniable is the affection for the show. The audience is getting exactly what it wants.

There is no narrative to thread the show together, instead the show presents sets such as the Butlins section set in 1962. The whole cast wear their red coats and white trousers with pride, aside from Fred the Ted, who has echoes of Ted Bovis from Hi De Hi. An array of vocalists share their talents performing the hits of Brenda Lee and Bobby Vee, as well as the obligatory Holiday Rock from the aforementioned show. Its bright and breezy and sets the tone for the humour of the whole production and presents us with the first of an array of wigs of dubious quality.

Then comes the tribute to The Shadows, complete with the necessary footwork and Trevor Payne takes to the stage as Cliff Richard. It is the role he was born to play. He cannot help but look like Sir Cliff. When he moves, he is every inch Cliff's doppelganger. Their version of In The Country and Elvis's hit All Shook Up go down particularly well with tonight's crowd. The whole shows exists thanks to Trevor, it is his brainchild and he spreads joy and excitement the length and breadth of the UK annually with its tours. To his credit, he allows others to take centre stage as often as he does to prevent it becoming a vanity showcase.

All of the cast get their moment in the spotlight. A new addition for the 2021 tour, though not his first time with the show, is Peter Jackson. Not the Kiwi film director, but an immensely talented multi-instrumentalist and singer. His take on The Platters' Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was possibly my highlight of the show. Though I have to say, I was impressed when this right-handed guitarist switched to playing bass left-handed to play Paul McCartney in the Beatles set. A lovely authentic touch, and certainly not easy to do.

The female vocalists, Sarah Jane Buckley and Nikki Rennee Hechavarria were both given opportunities to shine and wore a succession of glamorous gowns, changed at regular intervals. They recreated the sounds of The Ronnettes, of Eva Cassidy and Whitney Houston. Sarah Jane delivered a particularly commanding performance of Over The Rainbow, during which you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. The beauty of the vocal and the simple, stripped-back accompaniment from Ollie Gray and Phil Hollender were mesmerising.

I have to admit, I was not taken by the comedy aspects of the show. We were treated to routines that seem extremely dated and I was eagerly awaiting the return to the music, but I may have been alone because the show's fans were lapping up the comic stylings of the show's creator Trevor Payne and his long-term sidekick, Gary Anderson. Quite why there was a need to attempt a Laurel and Hardy routine in a rock 'n' roll shows escapes me. And Payne's stand-up routine in character as Mick Jagger in leopard-print leggings with a "comic" bulge, was simply not for me. His impression wavered vocally between Jagger, Bowie and for some reason I couldn't fathom, Bill Nighy (but that might just be my ear not his impression).

One instrumental really caught my attention with the dual drummers Ollie Gray and Mark Street, performing powerfully, as the band rumbled powerfully through the theme to Hawaii 5-O. It really got the pulse racing and the audience excited.

As the show moves through the decades, we get recreations of icons including Elton John, Tom Jones, The Eagles and Dire Straits. The Top of the Pops section, compered by the real Mike Read on video included tribbutes to Blondie and The Buggles. Theoretically, there was a bit of something for everyone and one of the most popular later recreations appeared to be the Live Aid slot dedicated to Queen and Freddie Mercury. The audience lapped it up, eagerly joining in with the songs and desperate to do the actions to Radio Gaga. So much so, the woman two seats from me started doing the actions before the song even began!

As value for money, the show definitely delivers. I think it was nearly 11 pm as I left the auditorium. No doubt its Christmas incarnation will sell out on its return in November. That'll Be the Day has found a formula that works well and allows its cast to have fun, constantly changing its content (they claim to have performed over 800 songs and 50 comedy routines during the show's history) and allowing cast members to join, bringing differing skill sets with them. As long as Trevor Payne retains his enthusiasm, the show could continue to delight audiences for years to come - if not decades.

Andy Evans

19 September 2021

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