Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Dreamboats & Petticoats - Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Dreamboats & Petticoats
by Laurence Marks & Maurice Green
Director: Bob Tomson & Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: Jim Nicholson

St Mungo’s Youth Club is the venue for this “jukebox musical” that takes us all back to the 1960’s and a night of rock and roll.

Although from the “jukebox” genre the book to this musical has a bit more about it than most other similar offerings because the writers, Laurence Marks and Maurice Green, really have come up with some very witty lines between songs. Not that there is a huge amount of script as 44 hits are crammed into just over 140 minutes of foot tapping fun. It should be no surprise about Mark’s and Gran’s book as they have had many TV hits, such as “Birds of a Feather”, “The New Statesman”, “Goodnight Sweetheart” and “Shine on Harvey Moon”.

On the downside the characters are all given the normal “jukebox” names to give the excuse to lead from one hit to the next as Laura wants to be Bobby’s girl but of course Bobby can not bring himself to tell Laura he loves her and instead goes off with Sue, who predictably gives him the run around.

I know we have seen this concept far too often in recent years but at least there is some genuine comedy in amongst it, like when Bobby’s dad bursts into his room because of the noise of his music, and then when challenged to knock in future because the young lad of 17 could have been up to anything in his room, his Dad points out that at least “that would have been quieter”, well I laughed.

Bobby, our lead character, is played by “2008 X Factor Finalist” Scott Bruton, you know, the Pontins Bluecoat who was always breaking down and crying at every result stage. Well at least here when he fails an audition, right at the start of the show, he takes it well and doesn’t go off into a sulk. Scott is to me typical of so many of these reality show stars hitting our musical stages – can sing but not really there yet on the acting front (perhaps that’s why the programme notes tell us where all the others were “trained”).

Bobby is in a song writing partnership with 15 year old Laura (Daisy Wood-Davis), who is soon to have a 16th party (can you predict two or three songs this event may kick into), but he has had his head turned by “man eating” Sue (Jennifer Biddall), who, shall we say, is a little bit more “developed up top”.

The hunk in the club, Norman, played by Ben Freeman (Scott Windsor from Emmerdale), tries to catch young Laura on the rebound. But little does she know that all he really wants is to earn himself a song writing credit on the back of her efforts, especially now as he has found out she aims to enter the “Song Writer” competition being staged by the National Association of Youth Clubs. As I said to my wife as we left the theatre “not your run of the mill story line”.

Daisy does the Laura character great credit and belts out excellent renditions of “To Know Him is to Love Him”, “Teenager in Love” and “It’s Only Make Believe”, whilst our lad from the Yorkshire Dales proves he is more than just a “pretty face” and has the audience eating out of his hands on “The Wanderer” and “Let’s Twist Again”.

Of course all turns out fine and Bobby and Laura do manage to co-write “Dreamboats and Petticoats” (actually a Jason Donovan claim to fame in real life) and go on to lift the national crown for St Mungo’s. Whilst fun loving Norman finds he really has a lot more in common with fun loving Sue.

The five piece band double as actors when needed and a number of the actors double as musicians without ever being intrusive to the story line. Accapella renditions of “Poetry in Motion” and, later, “Donna” are extremely well delivered, whilst there are fine supporting performances from David Cardy as Phil our Youth Club Manager, Emma Hatton (in the role of Donna, best mate of runaround Sue) and Patrick Burbridge (playing Laura’s older brother Ray).

To sum up, I suppose I wouldn’t take the risk of “fiddling my expenses on my second home” to fund a ticket but I would certainly swap my Susan Boyle concert ones for what is unquestionably a very pleasant night out.

Dreamboats and Petticoats runs at the Mayflower until Sat 30th May
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