Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, the brains behind the enormously successful Dreamboats and Petticoats, have obviously worked out that they have a winning formula. Hot on its heels comes this huge dose of early 60s nostalgia. The format, which cleverly mixes storyline with the hits of the period, is very similar but this time the action takes place in that hotbed of sin and debauchery – Lowestoft.
Two girls from Luton, 17-year old Marie Megan Jones and her older sister Jennifer Hannah Frederick, head off on their very first unsupervised holiday, leaving their very worried parents at home. The Suffolk weather, very reminiscent of the conditions outside the theatre, is wet and dreary but, just when they think their holiday is a washout, along comes the stunningly handsome American airman, Milton. He invites them to a dance at the local Air Force base and there the story really begins.
Set to a fantastic soundtrack of songs by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, the show features million-selling tunes, and some of the lesser known ones, by the likes of Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, the Searchers, the Drifters, Ben E King and very many more. The show features, quite heavily, the topics of racism and mixed-race partnerships and, to compliment this, the music is very “deep south” with some brilliant blues songs throughout.
Jones and Frederick, as the two lead females, both have superb voices and portray their characters incredibly well, with Jennifer coming across as ultra confident and Marie as suitably naïve and vulnerable. A J Dean, who takes the role of Milton, is the archetypal ladies’ man and, with his great voice and swivelling hips, he has the female section of the audience screaming for more every time he sings.
The main love interest in the piece is Curtis, played with great feeling and dignity by Jason Denton. He voices the fears of African Americans at that time very well, and is quite a chilling reminder that the period we are talking about is not that long ago. He gets most of the love songs in the production and showcases a voice that is a perfect combination of power and feeling.
A very special mention has to go to Tosh Wanogho-Maud who plays the character of Sergeant Rufus. He is particularly intimidating when he talks in his amazingly deep voice, and really belts it out when he sings the blues, but his main asset has to be his ability to perform some of the most enthusiastic and energetic dancing you will ever see.
With all 16 members of the cast constantly switching between acting, dancing, singing and playing the live music this is a true ensemble piece and, without doubt, the highlight has to be when Carlo Graham Weaver the “Italian ice cream man from Wolverhampton”, who appears to be a comic character throughout, suddenly unleashes his incredible falsetto voice in the unbelievable a capella version of the song “Hushabye” by the Mystics, sending the packed house absolutely wild.