The weather outside may be frightful, but the cast of a new production will be whisking Wearside audiences to the beaches of Benidorm next month.
Derren Litten’s smash hit ITV comedy about the holiday resort has been adapted for the stage featuring the stars from the Solana Hotel, including Jake Canuso (Mateo), Janine Duvitski (Jacqueline), Sherrie Hewson (Joyce Temple-Savage), Shelley Longworth (Sam), Tony Maudsley (Kenneth) and Neptune’s very own Asa Elliott.
Benidorm Live will make its Sunderland Empire debut from January 14-19, a welcome return to the venue for Janine who starred in last year’s Jack and the Beanstalk panto as the Vegetable Fairy.
This time she’s ditched the wand and is stepping into the flip flops of Jacqueline, a character she’s played in the hit show for ten series.
“I really like Sunderland. I have family who live in the area and that was one of the reasons I wanted to do panto there last year. At the time I didn’t realise I’d be coming to Sunderland on the Benidorm tour and I’m really looking forward to coming back,” said the actress.
The comedy show was first broadcast in 2007 and went on to receive two National Television Awards a TV Quick Award and nominations at the British Comedy Awards and the BAFTAs.
Original writer Derren Litten has also turned his hand to the stage production.
Speaking about what people can expect from the show, Janine said: “It’s a bit like a new episode but I know some people who’ve never seen the TV show, but have seen the stage production. There were a couple of references they didn’t understand, but apart from that it didn’t seem to bother them.
“Other people have dipped in and out of the TV show and still enjoyed the stage version, so I don’t think it really matters if you haven’t watched every episode of Benidorm the TV show, the stage show stands up on its own.
“I’ve done every episode of the show for the past 10 years, but this feels very different because we’ve never had a live audience before. You don’t have to know every detail to enjoy it. What’s been lovely though is that when each character comes out they get a lovely response. We’ve done over 100 performances so far and we’ve had lovely feedback.”
The show is produced for the stage by Michael Harrison and David Ian and has been well received on its debut UK & Ireland tour, says Janine.
She says one of the keys to Benidorm’s success is people’s affection for the Spanish resort.
“It’s a very British comedy,” she explained. “People can be a bit snobby about Benidorm and I hadn’t been there before I started filming the show, but you can have a really good time in Benidorm, and relatively cheaply. It’s got something for everyone really. I’ve eaten some lovely Spanish food in the old town or you can go clubbing and it won’t cost you much. It also has lovely beaches and an amazing climate.”
Benidorm Live is bringing a flavour of that sunshine and sangria to the stage.
“People who’ve been to see the show say they feel like they’ve been to Spain for a couple of hours,” said Janine who’s also well-known for her roles in One Foot in the Grave and Abigail’s Party.
She added: “In the middle of winter when everyone’s thinking of booking a holiday, it has a real feel-good factor. It’s not a musical, but there is lots of singing and dancing in it.
“I think the fact it has the same actors also brings a continuity to the production, but what makes this almost better is that, instead of watching it on a screen, the audience can feel part of it. The sets are very clever with the swimming pool and reception, you really get a feel for it. Then in the nightclub, people feel like they’re having a night at Neptune’s.”
And she thinks the show will go down a storm in Sunderland.
“Derren, the writer, has included a lot of jokes in the script and they come thick and fast and get a really good response, you get people standing up at the end, especially in the northern towns,” she said.
“I got to know Sunderland audiences pretty well last year and I think they’re going to love it. When I used to walk down the street in Sunderland people would recognise me from the show and you don’t really get that in London. People seem to love Benidorm there.”
•Benidorm Live is at Sunderland Empire from January 14-19.