Paradise Lodge is a bittersweet musical. Eric and Kylie are performing for the audience, the residents of a care home. The audience is flat and unresponsive, there isn’t a lot of cheer, and Kylie would much rather be elsewhere. But they power through. They sing songs of the wartime era, occasionally do a jig, and transport the residents back to a glorious past that they remember.
We are then taken on a flashback journey of two of the residents, Ronnie and Violet, and how they end up here. Both characters are instantly lovable. They are old but proud and do not allow their children to help much. Eventually, they both must be placed at Paradise Lodge. Steve Cooper and Sophie Osborne’s dual act is lovely. The show is born of a real-life experience of being a full-time carer to a dementia sufferer. And in that, the flashback serves well. We see what dementia does to people, how it slowly and surely eats away at their personality, and they become a shell of who they were. The dialogues are poignant. Occasionally, Eric and Kylie will refer to the state of the residents – they are bereft of dignity and pride. But through the well-loved songs and the melodies, their lives are briefly brightened.
The show, however, does little to add to the basic premise. As a result, the script kind of leaves off abruptly. There is no beginning or end, it’s as if the audience just glimpsed the middle of something. The lack of some sort of resolution or climax lets this show drift. Otherwise, it has the skeleton and massive potential to be a tear-jerker. In any case, the bonhomie created by wistful songs of the past by getting the audience to sing along is a wonderful feeling. And with that, the show succeeds in making a mark.