Dreamboats and Petticoats

Book by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
New Victoria Theatre, Woking, and touring
(2010)

Production photo

Petticoats are in abundance in this high-octane show which is basically an excuse to play the music of the fifties and sixties - and nothing wrong with that when the show features tracks by Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Billy Fury and Eddie Cochran among others.

“The action takes place in the early sixties somewhere in Essex” - a youth club to be precise - although judging by the swirling skirts and frothy petticoats I would have put it firmly in the fifties. The sixties were Mary Quant, straight shift dresses and Courreges boots - but I’m just being picky and maybe Essex was slower than London to take up the latest fashions.

The story is of teenage love, loss, loneliness, and the difficulties of giving a girl a good night out on three shillings pocket money a week - especially when you’re trying to save up for an electric guitar. This is seventeen year old Bobby (Josh Capper), an aspiring song writer with a great singing voice, who has fallen for Carolynne Good’s sexy Sue, leaving lovesick schoolgirl Laura (Daniella Bowen) to sing "You won’t Catch Me Crying" with a glorious and powerful voice to match that of Capper and to blend beautifully with his in their duets - "Let It Be Me" and "Dreamboats and Petticoats" - because of course they get together in the end.

The plot is contrived to lead nicely into the songs - flirty Sue introduces "Run Around Sue", and when Laura turns sixteen, "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen", but the funniest connection is "There Goes My Baby" when Bobby accidentally pushes Sue out of his bedroom window - “only eight foot above the ground”.

The humour is very tongue-in-cheek - a nostalgic look back at our teenage years and noticing how much things have moved on. Bobby considers becoming a banker ‘because everyone looks up to bankers’. This brought a hoot of derision, and Bobby’s dad (Anthony Clegg)’s wise advice “it’s no good living beyond your means - if everybody did that the country would be bankrupt” produced rueful groans. Credit cards were unknown then.

The main dreamboat for all the girls is ITV’s X-Factor finalist Jonathan Bremner, playing Norman, sexy, sultry and with tight jeans to show off his swivelling hips in a pretty fair facsimile of the style of John Travolta or even Elvis. His rendition of "The Wanderer" had the girls whooping, and "Great Pretender" was reminiscent of the self-deprecating manner of the late Freddie Mercury

Choreography is surprisingly sedate for a period which fizzed with excitement, energy and the beginnings of a revolution in the teen world, but the multi-talented cast make up for it as very many of them take up various musical instruments to present live music on stage, and they can swing, backed by Norman’s group, The Conquests.

Concluding with "Let’s Twist Again" and "At the Hop" (they certainly packed the songs in) the whole audience was on its feet twisting like mad - young and old alike. I think it could be said that everyone had a great time.

Touring to Liverpool, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Blackpool, Bristol, Malvern, Bradford, Sunderland and Birmingham.

Reviewer: Sheila Connor