BOUNDING on stage at Benidorm’s Silver Dollar pub, song and dance man Sean Mac launched into his big opening number.
His note-perfect rendition of Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling was this week greeted with rapturous applause from the sparse, 20-strong audience of expats and locals.
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But without the legions of boozy British tourists who normally pack Benidorm’s bars and clubs, the nightlife here is as flat as stale lager.
Former barista Sean, 30, from Hartlepool, revealed: “The locals have been wonderful and very supportive but Benidorm is a place that depends on British holidaymakers.
“Instead of 200, I’m playing to 30 people — on a good night — and it’s often the same faces.
“But I know I’m one of the lucky ones because a lot of the places that were offering live entertainment are still shut and many performers haven’t got work.”
Generations of British holidaymakers have been thrilled by the vast troupe of expat singers, comedians and dancers who cemented Beni-dorm’s party town reputation.
Instead of 200, I’m playing to 30 people — on a good night.
Now many of the acts are struggling to maintain their life in the sun.
Yet the doughty cast of performers, the lifeblood of Benidorm, have pledged the show must go on.
And The Sun can reveal they will be led by the resort’s most infamous entertainment name, Sticky Vicky, who is making a dramatic return to the stage after a five-year absence.
Sticky, grandmother Victoria Maria Aragues Gadea, delighted and shocked tourists with a risque magic show featuring ping-pong balls, razor blades and beer bottles for 35 years.
LIFE WAS GOOD
She retired in 2016 after health issues. Now her daughter is reviving the eye-catching show after adopting her mum’s trademarked name.
Maria, 39, who performs cont-ortionist act the Moonlight Show, revealed: “I will be bringing the Sticky Vicky spectacle back to Benidorm’s Little England area.
“I want people who have come to Benidorm and enjoyed her show to be able to do so again.
“It will also be good for Benidorm after the hard times it’s going through. A lot of businesses have had to close for good.”
Benidorm’s bawdiest performer spoke for the rest of the resort’s many entertainers as she added: “We’re all desperate to see the British tourists back.”
Once the throbbing heart of British tourism on the Costa Blanca, Benidorm is a shadow of its pre-pandemic self.
Many bars are shuttered and some Brit expats have been forced to rely on food banks.
Back at the Silver Dollar, singer Sean tells how he was doing 14 shows a week before the first lockdown.
Real name Sean McNicholas, he added: “I’d be running from a hotel to a cabaret, changing outfits as I went. Life was good and the money was great. I would wake up late, go to the gym, then the beach, and perform at night.
“But lockdown last year really hit hard. I was entitled to benefits because I’m registered self-employed here but it meant I was surviving on around a third of what I had been earning.
“I had to leave a beautiful apartment I had been renting, with a sea view, and move into a shared flat.
“I started panicking around June last year, when everything was still shut, and even messaged my old boss at Costa Coffee asking him about the chances of getting my old job back if the s**t really hit the fan.
“Luckily, things have improved in the past few weeks and I’m performing again.
“But it’s very different to the way that it was before the pandemic because there are now no British tourists around.”
Derek Blevins, aka Jake Blues, from Benidorm’s Blues Brothers Experience duo, who once performed nightly at the Rock & Roll House — hasn’t sung for a living for 14 months.
The grandad, 61, from Portadown, Northern Ireland — who performs with Scotsman David Young as Elwood Blues — said: “Benidorm’s like a ghost town. The main strip is deserted.
"The performers are really struggling, there’s been very little help for self-employed people in Spain. I’ve been surviving on my savings, but that can’t go on for ever.”
Wife Tracy, 54, who runs the what’s-on guide Benidorm Seriously, added: “Normally there are 300 shows on every night, now we’re lucky if there are ten or 12. I reckon 80 to 90 per cent of businesses are closed, we’re seriously struggling. I’ve had no help from the Spanish government, not a penny.”
Expat Tracy, from Maldon, Essex, added: “Bars and hotels are starting to open but we desperately need to be on Britain’s green travel list.
I reckon 80 to 90 per cent of businesses are closed, we’re seriously struggling.
“It’s very sad driving around the town with so many places closed. We’re all about the future.”
Among the businesses temporarily shuttered is the sombre-looking Sol Pelicanos Hotel, which doubled as the Solana resort in the long-running ITV sitcom Benidorm. It is scheduled to reopen, for the first time this year, on May 28.
Benidorm’s stunning Levante Beach, which is still marked out with the 13x13ft sunbathing squares introduced last year, had just a spattering of mainly Spanish locals on it this week as temperatures hit 22C.
Another one feeling the pinch is Liverpudlian Philip Aimure, who mixes Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond covers with his own songs.
Philip works with glamorous Colombian go-go dancer Natalie Franco, 28.
Philip, 55, who has only done two gigs since March last year, said: “Most of the hotels are closed and none of the ones open are putting on live music.
“Only a handful of the bars that were offering live entertainment before the pandemic are doing so now. I’d knock on doors to get work but there are so few to knock.
“I get about £340 a month in benefits but I’ve still got to pay about £230 a month as a self-employed person to contribute to the Spanish social security.
TRAVEL GREEN LIST
“Life is cheaper here than in the UK but I’ve had to fall back on my savings and it’s getting to the end of the line for me now.
“I’m not relying on a food bank but I know Brits here are, so I’m not complaining.
“British holidaymakers are vital to Benidorm’s economy and I have no doubt there’s an army of people out there waiting to come here when the gates open.”
Natalie, who has worked in popular Brit hangouts such as Hippodrome and Beachcomber, added: “This place needs the Brits, to survive.”
At popular British pub Jumping Jacks, singer Matthew Fisher, who has appeared on The X Factor in both the UK and Spain, performed to a crowd of around 30 on Wednesday.
Pub owner Pascual Alvado, 60, admitted: “Before the pandemic this place would have been rammed.
“Benidorm depends on the UK and when British holidaymakers can’t come then there’s nothing to be done here. I’m not making money and I’ve got people who depend on me to put food on the table.
“We can’t lower our guard and we’ve got to understand we need to take precautions to fight this virus.
“But with everyone behaving responsibly your Prime Minister should let people come here and not make them quarantine afterwards.”
Benidorm depends on the UK and when British holidaymakers can’t come then there’s nothing to be done here.
Julie Sadler, 54, from Leeds, a “tourist” in Benidorm enjoying a short break away from her home near Torrevieja 70 miles south, said: “It’s empty here. I hope for Benidorm’s sake things change soon and UK tourists can come back. This area is very safe.”
Rockin’ Stephanie, who also performs at the Silver Dollar, is feeling the squeeze, too. The 55-year-old Shakin’ Stevens fan, a one-time winner on Vanessa Feltz’s BBC1 show A Star Is Born, has had to rely on savings.
Born in Falkirk, the performer, who was singing in busy hotels virtually every night before the start of the Covid pandemic, said: “There’s been times when I’ve thought about hanging up my white boots, but my fans have kept me going saying it can’t last for ever.
“And this is my life, I’ve been performing for over 20 years.”
Stephanie, who lives in a touring caravan, added: “It was going great until March last year.
“I was performing to more than 100 people one night and then the next night all the pubs and clubs were shut down.
“I got some work from October to December last year when live music started again but that all stopped in the second wave at the end of December and I’ve only been per-forming again for three weeks.
“Luckily, I had some savings from the better times before the pandemic and that’s helped me get through this.”
The Benidorm entertainers are praying the British Government adds Spain to its green travel list soon, allowing the usual tourist hordes to return.
Jill Ryan, 48, a singer from Wigan who featured in the Channel 5 documentary Bargain-Loving Brits In The Sun in 2017, said: “We’re all just hanging on at the moment.
“I would love Boris Johnson to give Spain the green light. That would be a lifesaver for me — and for Benidorm.”
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