Dreamboats and Miniskirts

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
Bill Kenwright Limited
Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold

Elizabeth Carter as Laura and Alex Beaumont as Bobby Credit: Darren Bell

Clever analysis of perhaps the most pivotal period in British musical history, or a rollicking piece of fun with some great tunes thrown in?

Actually, Dreamboats and Miniskirts probably ticks both these boxes and more. To succeed though, you need two things. Firstly a real knowledge of and feel for the period when British beat groups seized the musical agenda that led to them setting the trend in America, the home of rock 'n' roll; and a young and vibrant cast that can recreate onstage the irrepressible energy that the time unleashed.

Directorial team of Bill Kenwright and Keith Strachan has taken the essence of the writing of Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran and brought the era vividly to life. Considering that the vast majority of the audience tonight probably grew up in the 1960s, the show has to be convincing and it is.

Picking up from the previous Dreamboats and Petticoats, we find the two teenage pop overnight sensations faced by the challenge of the changing sounds of late 1962-63. Bobby and Laura, tonight played by Alex Beaumont and Elizabeth Carter, seem to have run aground after their initial success.

This is worsened by a technical error on live TV that proves they are miming to a song. The plot essentially develops around how they set about trying to return to the top.

There are a number of interesting asides along the way that hint at the bigger picture of changing times in music, fashion and social attitudes but essentially it is the soundtrack that is going to be a sure-fire winner if delivered well, and it most emphatically is. All songs are performed entirely live by a talented ensemble of musicians and the performance is well choreographed by Carole Todd.

There are some intriguing references to the reality of the music business at that time, such as the almost feudal contract that Bobby’s band The Conquests signs without thinking. It also makes you wonder how much has really changed regarding the issue of manufactured pop stars as the influence of the ‘star-maker’ seems as depressingly relevant then as now.

However, the perceived importance of writing your own material at this time, an approach that was spearheaded by Lennon and McCartney, is made clear by the relevance to the plot of the song that Laura had written and Bobby tries to claim as his own.

There is an innocence to these times that is well illustrated by the journey from London to Liverpool—“it’s Birmingham, we’re nearly there”. The ensuing scene in the Cavern as The Beatles perform "Twist and Shout" illustrates so vividly the importance of these months, as well as sending a thrill through the audience.

However it is unfair to pick just one song when nearly forty are impeccably performed and with classics like "A Groovy Kind of Love", "The House of The Rising Sun", "I Only Want To Be With You", "Oh Pretty Woman", "I Get Around" and "Be My Baby" to name but a few, you can understand the appeal.

The final verdict must go to the audience, many of whom had probably spent a couple of hours reminiscing, and their verdict, if we can borrow a phrase from Jukebox Jury, is a resounding hit.

Reviewer: Dave Jennings