Dream still topping the pops

Dreamboats and Petticoats

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

Birmingham was on its feet and dancing last night - both indoors and out. Whilst Take That were rocking Villa Park, the cast of ‘Dreamboats and Petticoats’ were serving up a feast of fifties favourites over at The Hippodrome.

There can’t be too many musicals based on a compilation CD. So inspired were they, however, by the recording that writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran saw huge potential in a show based on the songs featured on the album.

After convincing Producers Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield that here lay a potential crowd pleaser, the show opened at The Churchill Theatre, Bromley in 2009 before transferring to the West End later that year.

The story revolves around the experiences of a group of young people who meet every week in their local youth club, sometime around 1960. All the usual characters are here - the dreamer, the swaggering ladies' man, the tart with a heart ( ‘free’ at the weekend but 1/6 pence  the rest of the week! ) , the dependable best mate, the bespectacled ‘nice girl’ from next door , the firm but fair dad and the banter loving mates. The writers are clearly making more than a nod to their own past and, I suspect, to the past of many of those sitting in the audience.

The show does, very much, what it says on the tin. Essentially, it’s a roller coaster of instantly recognizable songs linked by short scenes. Characters do develop and there are some nice moments of interplay between them but this show is firmly about the songs and the nostalgia they create. It doesn’t, nor shouldn’t, apologize for that.

Director, Bob Tomson draws infectious energy from his young cast. The onstage band are very much part of the action and serve either to back up the singers or to join in with action themselves (  Even the drummer ‘gets to speak!’ ).  It works precisely because the performers are young and bursting with energy - affectionately reminding the audience of how they themselves used to be. Watching 60s bands who still tour today may appeal to die-hard fans but nothing can beat the zest and vibrancy of a young cast belting out numbers as they were intended to be performed.

In a strong ensemble cast, Samantha Dorrance is beautifully understated as the sweet natured Laura.  Katie Birthill and Anna Campkin strike up a genuine chemistry as ‘bezzie mates’ Sue and Donna and Ben James - Ellis struts his stuff with attitude as Norman.

Credit, too, for the hard working onstage band who fought against a few sound gremlins in the early stages but came out on top. ‘Shakin’ All Over’ was a treat - both on the ears and on the eyes!

By the end, a packed auditorium was on its feet, dancing. They had come for a good time and, clearly, they got it.

‘Dreamboats and Petticoats’ runs at The Hippodrome until 02-06-11. 

Tom Roberts

 

And from further down Memory Lane . . .

****

PRETTY blonde girl from the Black Country blossoms to star in this cracking musical featuring a string of great rock 'n' roll hits from the 60s.

Wolverhampton teenager Samantha Dorrance plays Laura, the swot in specs and pigtails who has a talent for piano playing and song writing but seems destined to miss out on the boy she admires.

Samantha sings superbly in such memorable numbers as To Know Him is to Love Him, It's Only Make Believe and Teenager in Love, and on Laura's 16th birthday turns into a beauty and wins the affection of aspiring young musician Bobby (David Ribi).

Ribi proves the perfect partner and delights the audience with his fine voice, especially in Dream Lover, Only the Lonely, and, of course, Dreamboats and Petticoats.

But this is not a musical about just two people. Director Bob Tomson has gathered a terrific young cast of singers and musicians who really get the theatre rocking.

Ben James-Ellis (Norman), Katie Birtill (Sue), Anna Campkin (Donna), Josh Little (Ray) and Graeme Henderson (Phil) all sparkle in a dream of a show that rocks your socks off. To  02-07-11

Paul Marston 

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