Writer: Mike James
Director: Anna Linstrum
Choreographer: Arlene Phillips
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
At the height of its powers in the 70s, D.C. Thomson’s beloved teen magazine Jackie, had an enviable circulation of over half a million readers a week. With fashion tips, beauty secrets, celebrity gossip, photo-stories and the now infamous Cathy and Claire problem page, its loyal readership eagerly awaited its arrival every Thursday. Doubtlessly hoping to emulate the success of Mamma Mia, it’s a canny production team that have exploited this demographic to produce a nostalgia-laden, feel-good musical, chock-full of the cheesiest hits of the decade.
Our heroine, of course, named Jackie (Janet Dibley), is a 50-something with a teenage son and a private life in turmoil since her husband left her for a younger model. Clearing out her attic, she finds a stack of the cherished magazine and imagines what advice her younger self (perfectly played by Daisy Steere) would give to her present self. The magazine’s wholesome morality and simplistic words of wisdom make for a hysterical trip back from the future.
The plot, as wafer thin as it is, is infused with such joy and enthusiasm that the production is elevated above the usual jukebox musical and the cast’s commitment to their roles makes it look as if they are having a whale of a time and transmits right to the back of the packed auditorium. Janet Dibley is a thoroughly likeable and relatable Jackie and the supporting cast are top-notch. Shining brightest among them are Michael Hamway as son David, and his show stopping 20th Century Boy and Bob Harms’ fleet of foot barman Frankie’s Puppy Love.
Tim Shortall’s colourful design is the magazine pages brought to life: primary colours, cartoon speech bubbles and those eye-popping 70s fashions (to the production’s credit, recreated authentically, not a cheap parody). Arlene Phillips stunning choreography is both inventive and energised and is executed to perfection, this is the most pin-sharp dancing this reviewer has seen in a very long while.
If the reaction of the audience is any indication (singing every lyric, laughing at every joke, a dancing ovation at the end) then, with a little judicial editing, this could very well be the next Mamma Mia. Uplifting, feel-good fun that appeals to more than its intended demographic – the perfect girls’ night out.
Runs until Saturday 30 July 2016 | Image: Pamela Raith