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DREAMBOATS AND PETTICOATS

01-04-2009

Dreamboats and Petticoats

Another “jukebox musical” – this time celebrating the sounds of the 60s at The Alex in Birmingham. Terry Wills enjoys.

Billed as ‘the ultimate British rock and roll musical’ this Bill Kenwright production, inspired by the million selling compilation Album, is simply a show allowing those who fondly remember the sights and sounds of the 1960’s to wallow in two hours of pure nostalgia.

A simple storyline set in St Mungo’s Youth Club in Essex (imagine a modern day equivalent with teenager’s playing table tennis!) where two talented young musicians, Norman and Buddy, strut their stuff to attract the attention of the prettiest girls around, notably Sue and Donna.

What both failed to realise at the time was that Laurie, meek looking in appearance and personality, possessed the ability to write catchy tunes and songs of her own, only coming to their attention after she underwent a makeover over in hair style and dress sense that belied her frumpy appearance.

But why bother with a storyline when it’s the music that’s the sole reason for an audience booking themselves into the Alex?

Characters come and go but the catchy music of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ will be around forever judging by the reaction of many of the first night audience who towards the finale moved into the aisles to ‘Twist Again’.

Act one started comparatively slowly with renditions of ‘Lets Dance’, ‘Good Timin’ ‘Shakin All Over’ ‘Three Steps To Heaven’ ‘Bobby’s Girl’ ‘Poetry in Motion’ before finishing with a the whole company blasting out ‘Do You Wanna Dance’.

Act two. More frenetic action. ‘Dream Lover’,‘Great Pretender’, ‘Only the Lonely’, ‘It’s My Party’, ‘Teenager In Love’, ‘Happy Birthday Sweet 16,’, a reprise of ‘Lets Twist Again’ - all climaxed with the company en masse encouraging the audience to join them ‘At The Hop’. (Not that they needed any encouragement!)

Certainly a fun night with the mainly young cast giving everything to provide a splendid nostalgic evening’s entertainment.

Norman is Ben Freeman (from Emmerdale and Hollyoaks) while Bobby’s part is taken by Scott Bruton who received rave reviews from the judges on the X Factor.
Both received enthusiastic encouragement (albeit Norman’s portrayal was somewhat ‘over the top’), as did the girls, Jennifer Biddall, Emma Hatton, and Daisy Wood-Davis among others.

All far to young to actually remember those iconic nostalgic days of the 60s but nevertheless doing full justice to the music of Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury, and Chuck Berry.

The set was simple but plastered with copious adverts from the era, plus references to teenagers of the day listening to Radio Luxemburg, and watching Top Of The Pops while innocently pondering on the issues of love and sex it merely proved just how much attitudes have changed and moved on down the years.

Credit has to go to the musicians, the majority who also play prominent roles in the production. Versatility rules Ok.

Whether Dreamcoats and Petticoats can make the transition from a touring production to a solid gold enduring smash hit only time will tell. But should the reception accorded from the Alex audience be replicated on a countrywide scale I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

Dreamcoats and Petticoats runs until Saturday. Ticket details from alexandratheatre.org.uk/

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