Review: Dreamboats and Petticoats

Old, creaky but ready to twist again

By John Jeffay, June 17, 2010

Palace Theatre, Manchester

Josh Capper as the lustful schoolboy Bobby in Dreamboats and Petticoats

Josh Capper as the lustful schoolboy Bobby in Dreamboats and Petticoats

It is 1961. Most of the cast on stage were not born. And most of the audience were.

Welcome to Dreamboats and Petticoats. Hardly the title of a show to drag kids away from Facebook and the World Cup. But the high-tempo and unashamedly low-brow juke-box musical had the older generation off their seats and dancing in aisles. And I really mean dancing in the aisles. There really were genuinely old people standing up at towards the end, wobbling without inhibition to Let's Twist Again and C'mon Everybody.

The first half closed with Do You Wanna Dance? I didn't. But many of those around me were by this point clapping along. They got more into the swing of it and by the finale I was pretty in much in a minority, as I clung resolutely to my seat. I also had the misfortune to be seated in front of an elderly gentleman who had clearly decided it was a karaoke event.

I'm not a big fan of tribute musicals, as you may have guessed. I'm not even a small fan. But if early '60s music is your thing, then this seamless sprint through 40-odd tunes from the likes of Billy Fury, Connie Francis and Elvis Presley should keep you happy.

It is convenient that the hero is called Bobby (Josh Capper), because that is a cue for Bobby's Girl. And that his first love interest is called Sue (Carolynne Good), as in Runaround Sue (another good cue). And his second is Laura (Daniella Bowen). Can I hear Tell Laura I Love Her?

The setting is a youth club in Essex, in the age of Brylcreem, Z Cars, and the new-fangled M1 motorway.

Post-war innocence is giving way to rock'n'roll. Electric guitars have replaced acoustic. Boys are becoming men, nerds are becoming cool (like Cliff Richard) and virtues are becoming compromised (unlike Cliff Richard).

As you would expect, there is a love tangle in the brief windows between tunes. Blushing school swots Bobby and Laura are brought together by a song-writing contest. But Bobby lusts for the more obvious charms of Sue. She is concerned for the well-being of her three-and-six stockings from BHS. Bobby's dad arrives home unexpectedly and Sue makes a swift exit through a bedroom window. Cue There Goes My Baby for the best laugh of the night.

But the plot is not of paramount importance. Those nice Yiddishe sitcom writers, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart, Love Hurts and many more), have crafted something decent enough to hold the songs together, but the real star is the music.

Which, I have to admit, was great fun, and which was, as the programme and the pre-show announcer were only too keen to tell us, all played and sung live on stage.

Last updated: 1:53pm, June 17 2010