Jackie - The Musical

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


IN TERMS of winning ingredients for a musical, this show takes some beating. Take a hugely popular teenage magazine from the 1970s, sprinkle in some pop classics of the day, garnish with stories of broken hearts and the result is potentially a delicious mix.

Given that most of the audience are middle aged women and, therefore, the biggest demographic of theatre ticket buyers, the concept is a clever one. The audience are already fans - ex-avid readers of the magazine and up for a nostalgia fuelled evening from the very start.

Long before the instant information base of the internet, Jackie was a much loved and eagerly anticipated weekly publication for teenage girls, hungry for news of their favourite pop stars or advice on how to attract boys. A simple but winning formula that adapts perfectly to the juke box musical genre.jackie old and young

The story centres on our heroine, Jackie (of course ), a 54 old woman reflecting on her life after finding a stash of her old magazines in the attic. With her husband now in the arms of another, she finds herself alone and facing a future of online dating and marmite on toast.

Her teenage self (deliciously played by Daisy Steere ) accompanies her on her retrospective journey, played against a backdrop of gloriously familiar tunes.

Janet Dibley as Jackie and Daisy Steere as Young Jackie. Pictures: Pamela Raith Photography

It’s all a very clever way of platforming the beating heart of the show . . . the music and the routines. But unlike some other examples of the juke box genre, there is at least an attempt here to weave a credible story amongst the songs.

Janet Dibley is clearly having a ball as Jackie. Every observation on life gets audible sounds of recognition from an audience who have clearly been on the journey with her. Dibley gives the show a real anchor, adding measured subtlety to an accompanying frenzy of high energy numbers.

A strong ensemble never drop the energy and fill the genuinely exciting routines with real commitment throughout. Arlene Phillips provides tight, fresh and characterful choreography.

Jim Shorhall’s set design mirrors the period well and is embellished by some clever speech bubble cards - a lovely nod to magazine ‘photo stories ‘

It is rare to see such a connection between a show and its audience. Every David Cassidy and Donny Osmond lyric was joined in with, every little problem was sympathised with and every dilemma identified with. ‘That happened to my mate, once! ‘exclaimed a woman sitting to my left. Not great audience etiquette, perhaps, but proof she was into the story at least!

Most of the audience are witnessing an observation of their own lives. They love it because they have lived it.

This isn’t a classic piece of theatre. It doesn't offer sub text or any deep narrative, It’s not trying to be ‘important‘ or ‘worthy’. It is, however, glorious fun and exactly what it says on the tin.

A sea of unashamed nostalgia. Go and bathe in it. To 28-05-16

Tom Roberts



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