Dreamboats and Petticoats

Wolverhampton Grand


I am pretty sure that time travel is not yet possible but it seems no one's told the cast of Dreamboats and Petticoats, who from the moment the curtain went up had set the dials for 1960 and successfully took the audience with them .  

It would be easy to dismiss this flawless production as just another musical revue but when the audience of baby boomers, including a few who were a good bit older, are singing along quietly Why must I be a teenager in love on a cold Monday night in Wolverhampton, then there is clearly a real and emotional connection that cannot be denied.

What's more remarkable is that this cast, many who were growing up in the 80s, can so faithfully recreate the sprit, energy and innocent teen angst of that time.  

It's all a far cry from the internet IPod teens of today and in that notion lays its success.  Unless you are into retro and nostalgia, there's little for the under 30s here so move along, this audience own the era and its music and they didn't hold back vocally in letting everyone else know it.

So what's it all about, well it's like Happy Days and The Fonz  meets  Please Sir  with an awkward, acned coming of age teen romance, linked and cleverly narrated by the music and lyrics of classic songs from the late fifties and early sixties.

There's no doubt it all works beautifully and it would be hard to single out individual performers as this is a true ensemble piece with the voice over of Tony Blackburn, pre curtain, reminding us pop pickers that all the music is played and sung live on stage,  `not half ‘.

If there was one tiny criticism it would be that the singing occasionally is too good, sacrificing the trendy vocal slur of late 50s rock and roll for a more formal `musical theatre' style of enunciation.

However for such a high percentage of live musical work praise must go to the sound team of Marcus Wadland and Dan Evans whose mix of 45 classic songs was as faithful, if not better, than the recorded originals.  

Dreamboats is a jukebox musical set firmly in its era right down to the chrome headed mics

Any one of the cast seemed to have the vocal and acting skills to have played the lead roles but Katie Birthill who played the tarty Sue was someone who stood out and would certainly seem to have the range, quality and power to deliver a more challenging lead role.  

The last 15 minutes are an energetic blast of colour, music and dance that gets the audience up, moving and singing along. Recognising that many of them on their feet were clearly in their 70s was a testament to just how must fun and enjoyment this production generates.  

The formulae is a successful one and producers Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield know it having  developed  a new musical, Save The Last Dance For Me  set in the same era, which is headed for the UK stage in the spring of  2012.

It's set to be another fun packed musical trip back in time and it's pretty certain that this audience will be back to the Grand in the future to make the journey.   To 03-12-11

Jeff Grant

And from under the boardwalk . . .


BACK by popular demand, according to the theatre management, and this high energy show is still bursting with energy and pulling in the customers.

There was a distinct buzz in the auditorium before curtain up and for the blistering finale many people in the audience were on their feet, dancing and applauding.

How could it fail, with such exciting music from the golden era of the fifties and sixties - Let's Dance, Only Sixteen, Great Pretender, Teenager in Love, Let's Twist Again, Bobby's Girl, and lots more.

The story, around which the music is played, is fairly simple; girls, guys and guitars. Youngsters in relationships with a song writing competition to accelerate the rivalry, and our heroes triumphing in the end.

 Leading from the front is David Ribi as Bobby. He has the looks of a shy choirboy, but when he sings he becomes pop star material, and he has the ideal partner in Samantha Dorrance, playing the sweet young thing Laura who has a great voice and an appearance to match after abandoning her specs and pigtails.

Fine performances, too, from Ben James-Ellis (Norman) and Katie Birtill (Sue), and the on-stage musicians are terrific. One piece of dialogue earned ironic cheers from the audience when Bobby's dad explained why he couldn't spend more on a guitar amplifyer: "No good living beyond your means. If everyone did that the country would go bankrupt."

The show runs to Saturday night (Dec 3)

Paul Marston

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