What is there left to say about Dreamboats and Petticoats? It has been around for more than three years - which for a piece as slight as this is quite astounding. However it is selling better than many current tours and so there must be something that continues to appeal to large audiences round the country. There is - and it is simply that it is a feel-good piece of nostalgia.
For those who have yet to experience this phenomenon, Dreamboats and Petticoats was created following the success of a compliation album of music from the late 50s/early 60s - hits of the day strung together with a script by the creators of Birds of a Feather, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. The plot is wafer-thin - teenagers falling in and out of love - and the characterisation even thinner - but that does not seem to matter to audiences.
In terms of the energy, commitment and skill of the performers, there is nothing at all to fault with the production. In what is fast becoming a rarity in musical tours, all of the music and singing is live - with the majority of the cast doubling as the band for the performance. Leading the team is the winningly charmning Alexis Gerred who carries the majority of the musical numbers with great confidence and panache. Though I will admit that he is just a little too fresh-faced for someone who spends half the show complaining about his acne! He is well matched by Elizabeth Carter who perfectly captures the geeky awkwardness of her character.
For me, this was a strangely empty experience - but for the huge Oxford audience, it was an absolute smash. The evening ended with 99% of the crowd on their feet singing, clapping and dancing along. I was almost the youngest person in the room - and therein lies the secret of the production: it is the perfect way for those who grew up in the 50s and 60s to recapture their youth - and it does so very, very well. If you want a musical that will challenge and move you - find something else. if you want a high energy, well sung night out of pure nostalgia - then you can't go wrong with Dreamboats and Petticoats.