Book: Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran
Director: Bill Kenwright
Bringing On Back The Good Times is the latest instalment of Bill Kenwright’s hugely successful Dreamboats and Petticoats franchise. Inspired by the million-selling albums, the Dreamboats shows have been around now for over a decade and take advantage of the huge popularity of music from the fifties and sixties. Like its predecessors, Bringing On Back The Good Times provides an evening of good, unchallenging fun.
It’s a jukebox musical in the traditional style, so the plot is almost incidental and serves as much as a vehicle for introducing the songs as it does to engage the audience in the characters and their journeys. It tells the story of a band, Norman and the Conquests, playing the far from prestigious St. Mungo’s Youth Club and struggling to find a break. Guitarist Bobby has an additional concern – while he’s stuck in a band that’s going nowhere, his girlfriend Laura is starting on a more successful career including television appearances, and he wonders what she’s been getting up to behind his back. Actually, it turns out that she’s agreeing to do a favour for manager Larry in order to get the band a break – performing at Butlins in Bognor Regis.
While it’s not intended to be intellectually inspiring, the script has some humorous moments and serves its purpose in providing some context around the music – and it’s the music that people are here for after all. Some of the songs appear slightly incongruous in their placement in the story, but on the whole, the team has managed to arrange script and musical numbers in a way that doesn’t appear totally contrived.
David Ribi and Elizabeth Carter make an engaging couple as Bobby and Laura, with some good vocal skills on display. One of the highlights of the evening is Carter’s version of You Don’t Own Me, delivered with determination and tenderness. Alastair Hill does a fine job as lead vocalist and serial womaniser Norman, and Samara Clarke entertains as fitness instructor Donna, with a well-delivered Where the Boys Are. Mike Lloyd provides a comically stereotypical authoritarian as holiday camp manager Percy, with David Benson as Bobby’s dad, desperate to get him a job at Ford.
Benson also gives hugely comic value with his version of Kenneth Williams, and while not physically alike he has the voice, expressions and mannerisms pretty spot on. It will take a while to forget his version of the Williams classic comedy number Ma Crepe Suzette, a good bit of comedy towards the end of the evening.
The other treat this production gives us is veteran performer Mark Wynter as Larry. Remembered largely for his hit songs of the early sixties, Wynter is also a fine actor and still has a lot of vocal prowess all these years on, when he does a medley of his hits including Venus in Blue Jeans and It’s Almost Tomorrow – entirely out of context in the plot but by this time in the evening nobody really cares, they’re too busy enjoying the entertainment and singing along.
From the opening C’mon Everybody to the closing inevitable Megamix the classic hits just keep coming. Lipstick on Your Collar, Save the Last Dance for Me, Mony Mony, a beautifully delivered a capella Blue Moon and many more, the production is jam-packed full of well-known songs performed and played by the cast.
It’s slick, it’s entertaining and it’s fun.
Runs until 26 March 2022 and on tour