Star rating: 2 stars **
If ever a show knows its audience, it is the archetypal juke-box musical Dreamboats and Petticoats. Now, as the show moves into the 1960s, the girls are in miniskirts and the songs nibble at the Beatles era.
The minimal plot is easily summarised: boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. That description should suffice as it is the wallow in nostalgia that carries the evening. Nearly every song, and there are more than 40 of them, is being mouthed by the audience as the singers perform.
The central characters are Bobby (Alex Beaumont) and Laura (Elizabeth Carter) whose career as a duo has stalled after their previous hit ‘Dreamboats and Petticoats’ went to number one. Laura shows some capacity to move with the times as she bobs her hair and adopts trendy boots, but poor old Bobby languishes in her wake, returning to the youth club band, the Conquests. Both actors are attractive and possessed of enough charisma to be credible pop stars.
The pair are ably supported by two further couples caught in the slow lane to fame. Donna (Anna Campkin) and Ray (David Luke) and Norman (Alastair Hill) and Sue (Louise Olley). Sue sings ‘Be My Baby’, with great accuracy and verve, but with a cushion stuffed up her jumper. Indeed, as the action progresses, the cushions grow bigger, but so does her smile as she projects personality in shed-loads across the footlights.
But this is an ensemble piece that relies for its success on the enthusiasm of the whole cast. There is plenty of that on show. Dreamboats and Miniskirts may have the faux naivety of a ‘Well boys and girls, why don’t we do the show right here in the barn?’ production, but with a committed cast it can still succeed.
The set (Sean Cavanagh) is minimal with musicians on a rostrum at the back of the stage and coffee tables and armchairs occasionally dragged on as atmosphere for a domestic scene. The lighting (Tim Oliver) is suitably garish, although spots occasionally missed picking out a principal.
The comic pedigree of writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran rarely surfaces. For example, the whole cast belted out ‘When You’re Young and in Love’, pointing towards an auditorium that they must have known was peopled by grey haired theatregoers of a genuine 1960s vintage. There is some weak punning (‘Norman and the Conquests’) and that is it really.
As the audience dispersed into the night, I did not hear a single negative comment uttered: ”Everyone sang so well”, “I loved the choice of songs”, “What a great show”. Clearly, producer Bill Kenwright has got it right again. I was left wondering what next? The 1970s and Dreamboats and Safety Pins? Then Dreamboats and Shoulder Pads? You wouldn’t bet against it.
Readers may also be interested in:
Dreamboats and Petticoats – Sheffield and Touring – Review