Dreamboats and Petticoats

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield in association with Universal Music
The Hawth, Crawley

Dreamboats and Petticoats

If you are looking for a burst of nostalgia for the swinging 'sixties then go no further this week than The Hawth where all the familiar songs of the period are bringing back memories to the predominately silver-haired audience—although, having said that, a young boy in front of us (probably about 7 years old) was thoroughly enjoying the show, for the third time. The music lives on.

It was in the 'fifties and 'sixties that teenagers were invented and rock 'n' roll arrived, both to the consternation of parents who ‘‘couldn’t think what the world was coming to, but it would all end in tears”.

The show begins with grandfather Bobby telling his granddaughter how things used to be, before it blasts off with his younger self and "Let’s Dance", a very boisterous number sung and danced enthusiastically, but which had me cringing slightly simply due to the volume. Having heard recently of a man suffering from tinnitus after being exposed to an evening of excessively loud music—well, need I say more?

It also distorts the voices of the singers who must be straining their vocal chords to rise above it, and I certainly noticed the difference in act 2 where, with less amplification, I could appreciate the lovely voices particularly of Elizabeth Carter’s schoolgirl Laura although I didn’t care for her accent. I’m sure that, even in Essex, there was still a letter ’T’ in the alphabet in the 'sixties.

Bobby’s story tells of a national songwriting competition where he and fellow musician Norman were competing to win both the competition and the attention of the glamorous and flighty Sue (Laura Darton) while Laura, hopelessly in love with Bobby, is at the piano composing songs for 15-year-old Helen Shapiro, "Teenager in Love" and "You Don’t Know".

There are over forty songs in the show, the story of teenage love and longings being something to hang them on and including many references to how things were at the time. There is a lot of finger-clicking to the music and much slicking back of hair by the boys (a style known as a DA). Youth clubs took place at the local church hall, the main activity being table tennis, and boy/girl relationships were carefully supervised with the back row of the cinema the only place to avoid being seen.

The programme tells us that all the music is played and sung live on stage, and it is played superbly by the more static members of the band on keyboard, drums and guitars, but what really amazed me was the two girls (Lauren Chinery as Babs and Chloe Edwards-Wood as Brenda) performing energetic dance routines while playing unwieldy saxophones, and very good they are too.

Alistair Higgins is cute as the young schoolboy Bobby, with Alistair Hill more arrogant as Norman, although he does a very good "The Great Pretender" with a nod to Freddie Mercury’s self-deprecating style, while Jimmy Johnston is convincing both as grandfather and youth club leader Phil (great voice too).

Finally, "Let’s Twist Again" followed by "At the Hop" had the whole audience on their feet twisting happily away—well those who could manage it anyway. A great fun night out with a show which delivers the goods without taking itself too seriously and, as I said previously, The Music Lives On!

Reviewer: Sheila Connor

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