Dreamboats and Petticoats recently closed in the West End, but this touring production is still selling out venues around the UK. And it's not hard to see why.
The nostalgia dial in this boy meets girl story is turned all the way up, and the songs are really packed in there; however, these diversionary tactics are not enough to prevent the realisation that, unfortunately, this isn't a very good show at all.
People go to productions like Dreamboats and Petticoats for the songs, and there are plenty of them here, but when they are performed with so little soul, one wishes they had remained in the 1960s.
Some of the numbers do work wonderfully – a mash-up of “Runaway” and “Who's sorry now?” is a particular standout – but much of the music is just 60s tribute-band standard. That's not to denigrate the live band who are fantastic, but they are let down by poor vocals.
While some of the performers are technically good, there is no passion, and there are others in the cast who don't even meet the level of “technically good”. When one of those is your “rockstar” character, who bellows his way through everything in an estuary accent, that's not a good thing.
Thankfully, these low points are offset by a handful of superb performances. First of all, the girls. Each one of the three main female cast (Amy Diamond, Elizabeth Carter and Anna Campkin) is fantastic, with particular mention going to lead Carter whose gorgeous voice is stunning in its clarity, and whose infectious energy means she is perpetually bouncing.
Leading man Scott Haining plays Bobby perfectly with a level of teenage naivety and arrogance twinned with an excellent singing voice. And then there's Terry Winstanley. It's easy to sneer at television talent show contestants who then foray into theatre, but this guy is the real deal.
So, given that there are some great songs and some great performers, why has this show only been given two stars?
Because it's so very, very awkward. The soulless singing is one thing, but the script is painful. Many of the jokes have moved beyond nostalgia and now require explanation even to the older members of the audience, which not a good sign. Meanwhile, the overwhelming feeling during the show is of a sixth-form play at a school with a decent budget.
It's clear that I was in the minority, and the audience seemed to love clapping (out of time) and singing along (tunelessly) – but surely we can do better than this. Done well, a jukebox musical can be an absolute joy. Buddy and Backbeat proved that they don't have to be bad or appeal just to the lowest common denominator.
However, while it's inoffensive enough and certainly offers enough entertainment to pass an evening, Dreamboats and Petticoats is a lazy musical that has had its time.