Book: Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
Director: Bill Kenwright
Dreamboats and Petticoats: Bringing on Back the Good Times is the third show in Bill Kenwright’s popular jukebox musical franchise based on the popular album of the same title. The story by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran takes us from youth club to Eurovision via Butlins, as it follows Laura (Elizabeth Carter), a successful singer and her boyfriend Bobby (Jacob Fowler) while they are separated one summer. Laura agrees to a summer season at The Palace Theatre, Torquay in exchange for the opportunity for Bobby and his band, Norman and the Conquests, to start the first stage of their music career at Butlins, Bognor Regis. As with most jukebox musicals the plot serves almost exclusively as a vehicle to lead into the next song. This becomes comedic in places, where the audience can second guess the next line, being the line of a song. The plot is interspersed with smutty jokes and many a reference to the 1960s, which seem very popular with an audience mostly made up of people who’d have lived through the 60s.
All music is played live on stage by musicians and actor musicians. There are keyboards, percussion, guitars and an energetic brass and woodwind section who really serve to keep the mood alive, often impressively moving whilst playing – not an easy undertaking with a baritone sax in Lauren Chinery’s case.
The show is made up of a mixture of some exceptional comedy and musical performances, interspersed with some average, unexciting musical numbers. The cast work at their best when singing together in harmony – there are two truly magnificent a capella performances that really stand out. First, a beautiful rendition of Blue Moon and later, a stunning performance of Come Softly to Me where the cast work harmoniously together.
The Clapping Song, performed by Donna (Samara Clarke) as she auditions to be a fitness instructor at Butlins, is full of energy and performed beautifully. Clarke performs well throughout, she has great stage presence and a strong, beautiful singing voice. It’s difficult to take your eyes off her.
Without question the highlight of the show is the Eurovision scene. David Benson plays a hilarious and engaging Kenneth Williams with the audience eating out of his hand. Within seconds of arriving on stage, the audience are in hysterics. He interacts confidently with the audience, leading perfectly into his rendition of Ma Crepe Suzette which leaves the audience wanting more from this character.
The set by Sean Cavanagh, made up of old advertising posters and concert posters, provides the perfect backdrop for the musical. Neon lights transport the audience between the various performance spaces. The stage is left open to allow space for dancing, with the band performing on steps and a raised platform at the back of the stage.
Unfortunately, there were problems with the sound throughout the entirety of the show. The mics were turned off when cast members began speaking or singing, therefore dialogue and the beginnings of songs couldn’t be heard, harmonies were missing and the vocals weren’t balanced.
This is an enjoyable show with a highly talented cast that will be loved by those who lived through the 60s. There are some exceptional scenes, comedy and musical moments throughout the performance, but unfortunately, they are interspersed with some underwhelming musical scenes that work as a filler and dampen the overall experience.
Runs until Saturday 2nd June 2022.