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Dreamboats and Petticoats (Tour - Milton Keynes)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Jukebox musicals have become something of a hackneyed formula these days, plundering an artist’s back catalogue for some old hits to string onto a flimsy storyline, to the extent that the description has almost become an insult.

Cue comedy legends Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran to the rescue.

The writing partnership with their very own back catalogue of TV hits – from Shine On Harvey Moon to The New Statesman, via Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart and a host of others – have saved the sub-genre from mediocrity.

Invited by the record company owners to use tracks from their Dreamboats and Petticoats hit compilation albums for raw material, the duo have turned their hand to writing a stage musical. And done so in utterly winning style.

Their tale of tortured teenage romance within the walls of a 1961 youth club may be about as fresh as a pair of Billy Fury’s crepe shoes, but the raw energy and infectious enthusiasm they bring to it is every bit as lively and exciting as the kids who play it out in the theatre.

And that’s the other fantastic bit of news about this rollicking rock ’n’ roll show: the on-stage band simply blows the audience away. None of your pre-recorded backing tracks here – these are totally live, immaculately performed and utterly thrilling renditions of some of the best-known and loved songs of the era, woven seamlessly into the fun, frothy confection of Marks and Gran’s witty book.

Stand-out performers include Peter Gerald as the reminiscing older Bobby, Josh Capper as his younger self and Lauren Hood as the plain-Jane little sister Laura, while the actor-musicians creating the songs provide a superb back line throughout – including the show-stealing drummer (there’s a phrase you don’t use very often) Daniel Graham.

Direction from old hand Bob Tomson and some authentic choreography by Carole Todd keep the momentum building to a toe-tapping, unstoppable finale that brings the crowd inevitably – and willingly – to their feet.

- Michael Davies


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