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Once on this Island

Dreamboats & Petticoats

By • West End
WOS Rating:
The title song is one of several in this compilation nostalgia blast, mechanically devised around a couple of crowd-pleasing, chart-topping record albums, that will be unfamiliar even to most pop fans and bobby-soxers, but there are plenty more that make you feel at home.

And “home” in this case is Essex, where the crushes and “pashes” of Bobby and Laura (she’s, of course, “Bobby’s Girl”), Norman and Sue (that’s “Runaround Sue” who’s free on Saturday night but half a crown the rest of the week), are further exacerbated on a youth club outing to Southend.

There, on the carousels and dodgems, in a fantasy world of coloured lights, hair quiffs and flared polka dot dresses, we are also treated to the wholesale plunder of the back catalogues of Phil Spector, Roy Orbison, Chubby Checker, Neil Sedaka and Herb Alpert: the toughest job on Dreamboats and Petticoats must have been clearing the copyrights on the song titles.

Bob Tomson’s energetic production, designed by Sean Cavanagh, with musical supervision by Keith Strachan, is firmly aimed at the baby boom generation who never graduated from Cliff Richard and Jess Conrad to Bob Dylan and Nick Cave, let alone Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The story by the experienced sitcom duo of Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran is fairly feeble, which is intended to be part of its charm. The show is released when Dad finds an old Dansette record player in the attic and we dive back to 1961, the ping-pong table and a national song writing competition.

This is the link with today’s obsession with talent contests, and Scott Bruton as Bobby comes confidently to the stage from The X-Factor in order to tell Laura he loves her, eventually; and timid Laura is played winningly by teenage newcomer Daisy Wood-Davis who was plucked from open auditions.

Other leads come from television soaps like Emmerdale and Hollyoaks: Ben Freeman as the leather-jacketed Norman and Jennifer Biddall as saucy Sue. David Cardy is perfectly likeable as Bobby’s dad, the youth club leader of the pack. It’s far from being a great, or even a good, musical, but it’s tolerable summer entertainment.


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