Save The Last Dance For Me
Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
When Dreamboats and Petticoats premiered back in 2009, little did anyone know that it would become one of the best-loved musicals of the year and, three years on, have been seen by over one million people. Reuniting the team behind Dreamboats and Petticoats’s success, Save The Last Dance For Me follows the hit formula and proves that jukebox musicals are here to stay.
Using the back catalogue of Pomus and Shuman and many of their contemporaries, Save The Last Dance For Me tells the tale of sisters Marie and Jennifer who venture on their first parent-free holiday to “exotic” Lowestoft in the summer of 1963. Miles away from downtown Luton they come across US forces, stationed at the holiday destination and soon find their way into the hearts of the men who sing and play nightly at their UK air base.
Save The Last Dance For Me certainly packs in the musical numbers, making good use of the company’s actor musicians. The decision to set the action, for the most part, in the US air base’s club room means that songs can be included at the drop of the hat as the US and the UK enjoy dancing the night away and socialising.
The show makes great use of its musical numbers both diegetically and non-diegetically; however, there are times when the semantic link between scene and song is a little too tedious. ‘A Teenager in Love’ cued by the line “Each time we have a quarrel it breaks my heart” garners titters from the audience as they second guess what’s to come. But this criticism is also one of the show’s major strengths. Knowing the music means that audience members can wallow in nostalgia as they revisit past memories evoked by a story steeped in Britain’s cultural history.
Themes such as the cold war, apartheid and Americanisation are present, with Save The Last Dance For Me a snapshot of life in the 1960s. It is a production with effortless charm, even if some of the accents do sway off course now and again and the ending is a little too optimistic.
In the lead roles of Marie and Jennifer, Megan Jones and Hannah Frederick charm the audience with their stunning voices and it surely won’t be long until, just like its sister production Dreamboats and Petticoats, Save the Last Dance For Me too enjoys a cast recording, such is the quality of their vocals. Indeed all of the cast possess strong voices and this makes up for some weaknesses in the acting and dancing stakes—quadruple threat performers are obviously hard to find.
With seaside postcards adorning the proscenium, Save The Last Dance For Me takes its audience on a delightful holiday back to a time when Britain “never had it so good”. With sticks of rock and rock ‘n’ roll in abundance, Save the Last Dance For Me will no doubt rock ‘n’ roll itself into the West End post its extensive UK tour.
Reviewer: Simon Sladen