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 Jackie  played by Janet Dibley and her young self played by Daisy Steere. Pictures Pamela Raith

Jackie the Musical

Malvern Theatres

****

IF A largely female audience, almost filling the Festival Theatre, rising to their feet, clapping and rocking to the music, was a triumphant finale to this show, then this production got some things clearly very right!

Jackie was a girlie teen magazine in the 1970s that some of us never read! But here the magazine was transposed into a story and used as a hanger for the singing of a number of 70’s hit pop songs. It was light, lively and great fun!

In this show Jackie becomes a middle aged woman whose marriage has been ruined by her caddish husband John going off with another woman, Gemma, otherwise called the ‘horse’! She is planning to move out with her 19-year-old son who wants to give up on education and become a professional singer/songwriter.

Through an online dating agency, she meets Max, a black man, who charms her and they have a one-night stand before it emerges he is married already.

In the end both a penitent John, realising he made a stupid mistake, and Max, wishing he had never remarried on the rebound after his first wife died, are competing for Jackie’s affections, but she decides she does not want to be tied down by these defective males. She is going to be free: the modern independent woman with her own space to be herself!

The plot is shallow and insubstantial: it is merely the excuse for some lively pop songs and an amusing and ironic portrayal of the rather ‘corny’ elements of the girlie teen mags of the day. We have the agony aunts’ column; the articles on how to know ‘if he loves you’; the ‘how tos’ of relationships and stories of romantic affairs.

The picture that emerges suggests relationships are very difficult, often absurd, funny or embarrassing. Gender differences are difficult to reconcile and there is consequently a large amount of heartache and frustration with little stability or principle at stake.

But all that is washed along with a good deal of humour and irony, and celebrated with some catchy and memorable songs.

The live band of excellent musicians bring a tremendous energy to the production. The designer has enveloped the scenes in the image of a magazine, while the stage engulfs us in the atmosphere of the disco.

The singing is of a very good standard too: in particular Nicholas Bailey as Max has a powerful and clear voice. The choreography is varied and eye-catching as well, there are some excellent dancers in the cast, and the lights are used very creatively to create the right atmosphere.

In terms of performance Michael Hamway is a very good and convincing David, Bob Harms gives a striking performance as Frankie and the central characters, John played by Graham Bickley, Jackie (Janet Dibley), Young Jackie (Daisy Steere), Jill (Lori Haley Fox) and Max (Nicholas Bailey), are played with great energy and clarity.

This is a light-hearted and fun evening of feel-good, popular entertainment. The audience were fully engaged, amused and entertained from the start. It reflects some of the modern ‘angst’ of dysfunctional relationships in our society, but with self-deprecating humour and vibrant music. To 25-06-16

Tim Crow

21-06-16 

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