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Dreamboats and Petticoats (tour – Brighton, Theatre Royal)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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This tale of teenage angst, played out to a magnificent soundtrack of 50s and 60s hits, has the audience firmly in its grasp from the outset. The choice of Chris Montez’s “Let’s dance” as the opening song sets the tone for a fast-paced journey which starts with the discovery of an old Dansette record player in the attic and – through the power of the flashback – takes us through the lives and loves, headaches and heartaches, of the kids at the local youth club.

Leading the action are the young Bobby David Ribi and Laura Samantha Dorrance who are totally believable as uncomfortable teenagers trying to find a place in life, while not realising that the things they are so desperately searching for are right in front of them. Although they could both very easily pass for mid-teens, they have voices which raise the roof, most evident in their counterpoint duet of “Runaway” and “Who’s sorry now?”.

Terry Winstanley, instantly recognisable from his stint on last year’s X Factor, appears as both the older Bobby at the start of the show, and Bobby’s father, Phil, in the flashbacks. He plays the fatherly role incredibly well and, thankfully, gets three or four opportunities to show off the amazing singing voice which so captivated the television audience.

Ben James-Ellis is pure rock and roll as the super cool, but unfortunately named, Norman. He is the bad-boy that all the girls want but, as with most guys like that, it is only a matter of time before the façade starts to crumble and the real character emerges. The girl who, almost literally, throws herself at him is Sue Robyn Mellor and the two of them dominate the dancing with some incredible jive moves. They are complimented by Ray and Donna Dan O’Brien and Anna Campkin, who get the best of the comedy lines in the script.

Throughout the piece, the music is played live by various members of the cast who show just how talented an actor-musician can be. Emma Jane Morton and Tara Nelson, on baritone sax and tenor sax, with Josef Pitura-Riley and Mike Slader on trumpets, form a powerful brass section who truly shine.

The keyboard skills of Patrick Burbridge and the guitars of Matthew Quinn, Will Tierney and James Nitti, allied to the percussive rhythms of Christopher Wheeler on drums, create an authentic 60s sound, particularly in numbers like Ribi’s showstopping version of “Only the lonely” which is pure musical perfection.

In appreciation of such a wonderfully energetic and enthusiastic show, the entire audience took to its collective feet for an all-singing, all-dancing finale and gave the cast the standing ovation that it richly deserved.


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