A couple of years back, Birds of a Feather writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran were offered the ultimate playground: the back catalogue of Universal Music. The result was Dreamboats and Petticoats, perhaps the first stage musical to have been based on a compilation album.
Now they have performed the trick again, this time using (mainly) the songs of early 60s tunesmiths Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. Since their track record includes A Teenager in Love, Sweets for my Sweet and Viva Las Vegas, you’d think it was a fairly safe bet for a jukebox musical.
And, in the hands of the comedy writing partnership, that’s pretty much true. Set in Lowestoft – very rock ’n’ roll – and telling the slight but sweet story of 17-year-old Marie’s holiday romance with a locally-stationed American airman, Save the Last Dance for Me is an unashamed romp through some well-loved standards.
There’s a terrific live band, led by Marc McBride, and some impressive singing voices among the energetic young company. And if the acting and accents don’t quite match up to the vocals, there’s enough charm and enthusiasm on stage to carry things through to a toe-tapping conclusion.
Megan Jones plays the youngster with wide-eyed innocence and considerable appeal, with Hannah Frederick – fresh out of drama school – also making her mark as Marie’s older sister Jennifer. Among the visiting Yanks, AJ Dean is strong and assured as the fun-loving ringleader Milton.
Nobody is likely to claim that this is high art, but as a pleasant trip down memory lane – evidenced by the ubiquity of grey hair in the audience – it’s a solid, well-constructed piece of light entertainment. And let’s face it: who wants to be intellectually challenged in Northampton on a Monday night anyway?