Jackie the Musical
Paul Johnson | 25 Mar 2016 00:41am
Janet Dibley and Daisy Steere as ‘old’ and ‘young’ Jackie. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
This show is going to split the critics – and for more than one reason. While fans of traditional, original book musicals will always shake their heads when a new ‘jukebox’ production crashes the party, the target market of the fifty-something-year-old female means that comparisons are bound to be drawn with another more established show featuring the songs of a couple of Swedish blokes.
The fact that the other show is already a long-running worldwide smash hit also means that most comparisons may well be negative. However, after Jackie the Musical’s national press night in Bromley this week, I have a feeling that this new production may have a fair bit of fight in its belly.
It is argued that jukebox musicals represent a lazy form of theatre-making: Pick a pile of hits either from a single era or artist that guarantee to get an audience’s toes tapping, and then stitch them together by any means possible – for this a shoe-horn is often involved.
Jackie the Musical, while not exactly picking the most obscure era in theatre history, does claim a certain level of originality alongside a refreshingly witty book by Mike James. At the core of the show sits the pioneering 1970s magazine for teenage girls – Jackie. Those girls are, of course, all in their fifties now and will be filling auditoriums around the country gloriously drowning in nostalgia.
Produced in the style of the magazine’s own legendary photo stories, the show is about fifty-four-year-old Jackie (no surprises there), soon-to-be divorced, with a teenage son and desperate for some direction in her life. When she comes across a box of her old Jackie magazines during a clearout, her younger teenage self appears before her eyes enabling the two to compare their own respective outlooks to life.
The lack of social networking and the immediacy of modern technology in the 70s make a striking comparison when the two versions of Jackie compare each other’s lives. The innocence and naivety of that early era – which is confirmed when advice columns and features from some of the original editions of the magazine are read out – is strangely attractive when alongside today’s complicated lifestyles.
And then there’s the music of course. From Mud’s Tiger Feet and T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy to Love is in the Air, Sweet Dreamer, Enough is Enough and Donny Osmond’s cheesy classic, Puppy Love. The combination of the trip down memory lane and the well-chosen song-list may just be enough to keep this show packing them in.
Onstage, Janet Dibley and Daisy Steere as ‘old’ and ‘young’ Jackie are well-matched and make a believable team with both actors conveying the cynical chaos of blind-dates with pure youthful positivity wonderfully well. Lori Haley Fox gives strong and hilarious support as modern Jackie’s best friend, Jill, as does the athletic Michael Hanway as the divorcee’s teenage son, David. Also deserving special mention is Bob Harms and wine bar owner, Frankie, who wins the prize for scene-stealing. His send-up of Puppy Love brings the house down.
Anna Linstrum’s direction provides plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour to bring the best out of Mike James well-written book, and not surprisingly, Tim Shortall’s magnificent costume design goes down a storm. Arlene Phillips has chosen to choreograph the numbers sometimes quite literally (The Osmonds’ Crazy Horses has the cast galloping around the stage) but in keeping with the aforementioned Tim Shortall’s uncomplicated set design, the focus is deliberately kept on the characters. Dan de Cruz’s five-piece band produces plenty of thump for the 70s grooves and the decision to feature the band onstage always works well in this kind of show.
Jukebox musicals are made by design to supply audiences with a great night out. This show does just that. I don’t suppose there will be many Olivier nominations in the pipeline but the packed audiences won’t be too bothered about all that. What I will lay money on is the number of attics up and down the country waiting to be turned upside down for boxes of old magazines over the next few months.
More at jackiethemusical.com
Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
- : admin
- : 23/03/2016