Being given free rein to plunder the back catalogue of Universal Music must have seemed like a dream come true to writing partnership Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran.
The team behind TV production company Alomo, whose on-screen hits have included Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart and The New Statesman, were asked to create the script for a new musical based around the album compilations being issued under the title Dreamboats and Petticoats.
The result, now well into its second year of touring, is much more than a straightforward jukebox musical: this is a proper show with a proper story.
Framed by the dramatic device of an ageing Bobby recalling his youth for the benefit of his granddaughter, the tale follows the teenage Bobby’s life and loves in 1961 Essex. There are jokey pastiches, topical references and – seemingly – hundreds of toe-tapping tunes from the era, which is brilliantly evoked by Sean Cavanagh’s design and Carole Todd’s choreography. The live music, performed by an ultra-talented cast of actor-musicians, is blisteringly good and meshes perfectly with the witty and entertaining book.
Among the huge roll-call of performers, Josh Capper stands out as the young Bobby, with fabulous support from Francesca Jackson as the object of his affection, Sue, and a stunning Wayne Smith as his best mate Ray, but there’s strength and boundless energy throughout the infectiously buoyant cast.
Director Bob Tomson never lets the pace falter and you’re never more than a couple of minutes away from another song, which means the whole thing has something of the feel of a Saturday night gig at the Gaumont. And there’s just no stopping the audience at the first invitation to leap to their feet.
- MICHAEL DAVIES