Rock ‘n’ roll riot!
It's retro, hit-a-minute fun as West End 1960s jukebox musical Dreamboats & Petticoats rocks up in Swindon.
Up for a cheesy feel-good night out to chase away the end-of-summer blues? I have just the prescription.
Following a West End run a few years back, the Dreamboats & Petticoats tour continues and it’s stopping off at Wyvern Theatre on Mon 25 September for a week.
It’s the ultimate jukebox musical with rock‘n’roll hits of the late Fifties and early Sixties shoehorned in every couple of minutes. We’re talking Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury and many more. In fact, the show was devised on the back of a series of multi-million selling compilation albums of the same name.
The plot is as thin as an old LP, concerning youth club members entering a national songwriting competition and their various unrequited, requited and changeable loves.
Frumpy Laura is not-so-secretly in love with her brother’s best friend Bobby – yes, she wants to be Bobby’s Girl. Bobby however despite his friends’ warnings, has his sights set on flirty, fickle Sue. Sound a bit like a certain Runaround Sue we all know a song about? You betcha.
So it continues, hit after hit from a live onstage band with various characters, and often the whole cast, chipping in on vocals before a backdrop covered with retro posters and some fun additions like moving bumper cars.
What redeems the hit-a-minute silliness is that the band, and the vocals in particular, are very good. Special mention has to go to Elizabeth Carter who plays Laura, who has a beautiful yet powerful voice and also manages to carry off quite believably playing a teen around half her age. When I read the programme I realised she was the same woman whose vocal talents had impressed me when she played Wendy in the Hawth panto Peter Pan last Christmas. Alistair Higgins who plays Bobby is another strong singer with a bit of an Elvis Costello twang in places.
It’s a cheesefest, yes, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and by the later scenes you get the feeling it’s sending itself up. There Goes My Baby sings Bobby when his girlfriend falls off a roof. “I was only in the loo” retorts a girl after her other half has unleashed a song of heartbreak at her disappearance.
Of course the songs themselves are classics. I wasn’t born in the Sixties yet I knew all the words to at least 90% of the ridiculously catchy tracks and had to restrain myself from singing along. I also spent a lot of time coveting a couple of retro armchairs on stage!
The audience on opening night was predominantly made up of people who probably knew the hits when they first came out and there were a few cute moments to be spotted in the stalls – one couple were getting all cuddly nostalgic and some people really knew how to twist (yes, you do get a chance to join in at the end). I saw a kid or two in the audience too and if you don’t mind them hearing a bit of innuendo then I reckon they’d have a good time, tweenies in particular who’ve perhaps heard some of the music at home.
Think of it less as a piece of theatre, more as a really good Sixties tribute act with some humorous onstage larks thrown in and you’ll have a whale of a time.
Dreamboats & Petticoats is on at The Wyvern Theatre from Mon 25 to Sat 30 September, swindontheatres.co.uk