Dreamboats and Petticoats
Paul Johnson | 05 Mar 2014 11:27am
It’s a simple formula: take a slight, 1950s’ set story about young love and throw in pretty much every classic hit single from the same era and BINGO! You’ve got a smash hit show that has stormed the West End and been touring pretty much constantly over the last five years.
Dreamboats and Petticoats began its journey in 2007 as, of all things, a humble compilation album. Despite the existence of plenty of similar entities, it proved a massive hit, and in 2009 theatre producer extraordinaire Bill Kenwright spied an opportunity to turn this success into something even bigger. Kenwright employed legendary screen-writing duo Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran to fashion a script incorporating the songs featured on the album and thus, Dreamboats and Petticoats took on a whole new life.
It’s easy to see why. Rock ‘n’ roll music has a timeless quality, full of joy and heartbreak, its lyrics almost unwaveringly telling tales of love in all its forms. Attaching a story to this music is a simple thing indeed, but even so, Marks and Gran have concocted a hugely effective, crowd-pleasing saga; formulaic and corny, certainly, but as a lesson in giving its audience exactly what it wants it’s nigh-on perfect. In using existing and well-loved song lyrics and titles to name their characters – Bobby, Laura, Sue etc – the duo have brought these names we’ve heard so often on the radio to life. The audience already feels like it knows these people, and is on side from the off.
Effective as the libretto is, however, it’s really little more than a means of moving from one song to the next; the audience is here chiefly because of the music, and nary a minute passes without at least a short burst of a song. And that’s absolutely fine when the music is this good. The 17-strong cast is universally excellent, each of them acting, singing, dancing and playing instruments (there is no pit orchestra; all of the music is played live, on stage, by the cast – this is the epitome of an actor musicianship show), all of it with huge aplomb. It’s hugely exciting to hear the primal beats of opening number Let’s Dance pummelling through the (pleasingly loud) speakers, and when a brass quartet kicks in mid-song, as it does on a couple of occasions, it’s almost indecently thrilling. The brass plays a big part throughout, Victoria Quigley’s dirty sax plonking a big stamp of authority on to Da Do Ron Ron. Equally exhilarating are the occasional bursts of acapella singing; twice the entire cast sings unaccompanied, its harmonies spine-tingling. It’s these little touches that lift the show above mere pastiche.
The performances are spot on. Greg Fossaro, as Roy Orbison-obsessed Bobby, has a beautiful pop tenor voice, effortlessly reaching the Big O’s big notes in Only The Lonely and a gorgeous In Dreams, and combining splendidly with his leading lady, Laura, played by Hannah Boyce, in a mash-up of Runaway and Who’s Sorry Now. Miss Boyce is a superb all-rounder, her voice sweet and affecting throughout, but powerful when necessary. Her rendition of To Know Him Is To Love Him, in particular, is heartbreaking, delivered with vulnerability and the naivety of youth. She also dances her little ankle socks off when given the chance. It is Bobby and Laura who are the beating heart of the show, but the whole company is full of well-rounded characters, with even those with few lines of dialogue imprinting themselves on the memory. Special mention must go to Sheridan Lloyd, who acts as both real life Musical Director and fictional, on-stage band leader, the amusingly uptight Andy. A difficult dual-role which, as evidenced by the high quality of musicianship throughout, Lloyd carries off very impressively.
The show hurtles to its inevitably positive conclusion, and its equally inevitable dance medley, designed to get the audience out of its seats and twisting the night away. Much of the Monday night audience was predictably reluctant to engage in such shenanigans but this will surely be reversed by the time the show reaches its weekend performances.
Dreamboats and Petticoats is a show which will run and run, one which will see many return again and again to enjoy its charms, all the while attracting plenty of new fans along the way. It won’t win any awards for originality, but in terms of sheer entertainment and simply having a great night out, one which will cement a big fat smile on your face for two-and-a-half hours, it’s hard to beat. The very definition of feel-good.
Dreamboats and Petticoats can be seen at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford, until Saturday, before continuing on its seemingly endless nationwide tour.
- : admin
- : 03/03/2014