9It wasn’t the first of what has become known as a jukebox musical but after many years of touring this perennial show remains amongst the best. There has to be a reason or maybe several, but whatever the reason this confection of 1960s pop classics can still pull in an audience and still get them on their feet and dancing, despite some of us being of a “certain age”, by which I mean old enough to to have enjoyed the songs when they were first in the charts.

The story is slight, not Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran’s best work by a long chalk, but somehow that doesn’t matter. The whole confection, as I have already declared it, is a knickerbocker glory of a pud and that starts with a selection songs that are as good today as they were six decades ago.

But good as those songs are the second factor comes into play, the performance! The cast of this show are so well drilled and so talented that each song is delivered as we might remember it. There’s none of that current trend in pop vocalists to take a classic and riff around the melody to the point that you can barely recognise the original tune. Here those songs are delivered with respect and with the most beautifully realised harmonies too. The band, who also play many of the roles, are equally tight and respectful of that classic sixties sound whether it be rock, pop or soul, and, dare I say it, there’s barely one member of the company who might remember that sound from the first time round.

The next factor that comes into play is the look, the set certainly evokes the era and it is beautifully lit, the costumes too have the right look although that look tends to veer towards Americana rather than Britannia, a minor quibble for me. But the dance is absolutely spot on and choreographer and assistant director Carole Todd has honed every movement to colour the production with a true visual sixties feel and one delivered with precision and energy.

It’s a large cast and at the matinee that I saw this time round a cast blighted by illness which meant that they all had to step up and deal with playing their understudy roles and even on this occasion shifting instruments. I’m not sure that any of the audience would have noticed had we not been told nor would we care as the whole was pretty damned perfect.

On a less enthusiastic note I could have done without a rather indulgent episode in act two when, for no good reason, a Kenneth Williams impression went on and on and on and to no real effect, certainly slowing the trail to the denouement in a show that until that point had been pacey and exciting.

The cast also includes sixties pop idol Mark Wynter who looks and sounds as good as ever, the voice mellowed but still as delightful and he has aged well slipping comfortably into that silver fox look that few men of his years can claim. His presence on the stage adds a touch of class and period provenance and he delivers a fine medley of is hits.

It’s great to see a cast this good and there were too many excellent solo performances to name them all but if some were understudies then the principals that they covered need to look out!

Dreamboats and Petticoats is a jewel of a show in the Bill Kenwright crown and an audience that ranged in age for 13 to… well let’s say people that danced to those hits in 1960 lapped it up.

Andrew Kay

Congress Theatre Eastbourne

11 August

[rating: 4/4]

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