Dreamboats and Petticoats
Book by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
The links between musical theatre and reminiscent pop grow ever stronger (or weaker -depending on how you look at it) with the newest West End musical Dreamboats and Petticoats. As ever, we have a weak narrative strung together by old pop favourites, in this instance a compilation album of the same title which celebrates the swinging sixties.
Our weak narrative sees us looking back over the teenage years of Bobby (Scott Bruton), a spotty, nerdy Roy Orbison wannabe who struggles to convince his dad to buy him an electric guitar, figure out whether he's in love with Laura, the nerdy blonde (Daisy Wood-Davis) or Jennifer Biddall's sexy brunette Sue (I wonder which one he'll choose). Along the way he is rivalled by teen heart-throb in the making Norman (Ben Freeman) and aided by his best friend Ray (nicely played by AJ Dean).
Essentially, Dreamboats is a poor-man's Grease. The action is set in St Mungo's Youth Club in Essex and, following in the footsteps of the film, the majority of the young folk look about 30 years old. We have 'stars' from Emmerdale and Hollyoaks, and our skinny lead was in the X-Factor final last year. In the year where Spring Awakening reminded us how powerful musical theatre can be, with its outstanding cast of young people, Dreamboats seems drearily old fashioned. Only the use of actor-musicians as the onstage band adds any real life to the party.
Scott Bruton obviously didn't get much acting training on the X-Factor - he has about as much charisma as the pillow he hugs to his chest whilst struggling through "Only The Lonely". His high notes in "In Dreams" made me yearn for AJ Dean, Bruton's understudy, to be leading us through the limp story. Dean's charm and enjoyable barbershop solos were the highlight of the night. Ben Freeman gurns his way through a John Travolta impression ,whilst the powerful voice of Daisy Wood-Davis easily shines. She battles valiantly to bring new life to the cardboard cut-out geek-turned-pretty girl role - look out for her next move.
Carole Todd's choreography is strangely sedate - where are the kicking group jive numbers with girls leaping through the air? Give us a bit of lindy-hop and raucous twisting and shouting - isn't that what the 60's was all about? Brigid Guy has managed to deck out the ladies in impressive dresses, but got lost in TopShop when designing costume for the boys - I tried on Bobby's jacket two weeks ago. Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran's book is dated and lacks any comedic punch. The only moment when they hit the nail on the head is when the character Donna tells Ray she's leaving. He breaks into the Richie Valens number "Donna" - 'Donna, where can you be?' he warbles. She promptly returns exclaiming she'd just been to the toilet. If only Marks and Gran had written the entire show with tongues in their cheeks.
Peter Lathan reviewed this production on tour in Sunderland
Reviewer: Terry O'Donovan