With a career that's spanned 45 years and still counting, Sir Cliff Richard is a national institution. But both he and his fans deserve something better than this clumsily thrown together (constructed would be far too generous a theatrical term) concert.
"I wish I was in it myself", Sir Cliff says on the posters. He must have been quoted before he actually saw this tiresome, terrible enterprise. I'd call it an end-of-the-pier entertainment if that weren't insulting to piers and the unpretentious distractions they happily peddle. It's far worse: a cheaply cynical attempt to cash in on the (largely female) fans that manages to insult not only their idol but also themselves, with a pathetic pair, Sharon and Sandra, being a running gag of the show.
Not that they're the only ones feebly caricatured, rather than remotely characterised, in the breathtakingly inane and completely witless book by radio DJ Mike Read (who also stars) and Trevor Payne (who also directs). Set in 2020 in the build-up to an 80th birthday party for the Peter Pan of pop - by now, elevated to Lord Cliff of Weybridge and residing at the Keith Richards' Health Farm for retired rock stars - the 'musical' offers four versions of Cliff, from stocky youth (Ricky Aron) to nerdy pop star (Miles Guerrini) to earnest middle-aged rocker (Jimmy Jemain) and OAP (the aforementioned Read).
Only Jemain - a 1990 winner of television's Stars in their Eyes for impersonating Cliff - remotely resembles him, with the emphasis on the remote. A Madame Tussaud's waxwork has more animation than Jemain with his cheesy grins, though he admittedly sings better.
There are no stars in this show and I'd be tempted to award it none either, though I suppose it deserves one for musical proficiency, with a live onstage band and some lively renditions of Cliff's many hits. As the on-stage teleprompter informs us, the man has had 124 UK hit singles so far - and by the end of this nearly three-hour onslaught, you feel you've heard every single one of them, sometimes twice over.
But at last those songs mean Cliff - the Musical has a better score than either of the two stage musicals that Cliff himself graced (1986's Time and 1994's Heathcliff ). Nevertheless, this dire production is not so much high tech as high tack.