Jackie the Musical (Churchill Theatre, Bromley)
Arlene Phillips choreographs this new jukebox musical inspired by the magazine
There may not be room in the West End for yet another 1970s jukebox musical, but at least on tour this cheerful, day-glo coloured, simple-minded show scripted by Mike James will arouse fond memories for the middle-aged mums who once constituted the readership of Jackie magazine.
Jackie sold an amazing 600,000 copies a week, carried chaste picture spreads on the pop idols of the day – Cliff, Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and Marc Bolan – and gave tips on dating ("practise kissing on the back of your arm") and the demure thrill of holding hands.
The readership, as one former editor says, has exchanged the first flush of youth for the hot flush of menopause. That passage of time is reflected in the story of, well, Jackie (Janet Dibley, something of a pinched hausfrau) clearing out boxes of back numbers which come to life in Arlene Phillips's dazzling and hilarious choreography, and in the puppet-like figure of her younger self (Daisy Steere). Other hooks for hanging the songs on are provided by Jackie's husband John (Graham Bickley) hitching up with a younger woman, Gemma "the horse" (Tricia Adele-Turner), Jackie finding tentative romance with a married lover (Nicholas Bailey) and her son David (Michael Hamway) pining for her own best middle-aged friend (Lori Haley Fox) while composing love songs en route to college.
Sociologically, you might think the world of Jackie was one of pre-Adamic provincial innocence, sunshine moods and sweet crushes. But the fact that the editors received up to five hundred letters a week and many of the girls were no doubt squeezing into the Top of the Pops recording studio (and we now know some of what was going on in there) suggest a parallel universe of teenage spotty angst, sexual nerviness and heavy heartache.
The song list, which includes such delights as John Paul Young's "Love is in the Air," David Essex's "Hold Me Close" and Lynn Anderson's "I Beg Your Pardon" ("I never promised you a rose garden") give the bum's rush to the old saw that nothing happened in pop between the Beatles and Queen, over-sanitised though they sometimes sound.
But items like the Everly Brothers' pained and strained "Love Hurts" and Johnny Nash's irresistibly wise and jaunty "Can See Clearly Now" are fairly adult in sentiment, while even the Osmonds' "Crazy Horses" and 10cc's "The Things we do for Love" have a dark side; breaking up is hard to do, and not just for Jackie readers.
The magazine closed down in 1993, but the spirit lives on – in Bromley, at least. The staging by Phillips and director Anna Linstrum on a clever pop studio design by Tim Shortall (only one awkward moment, when a staircase is left to fend for itself centre stage) makes a target audience of us all: the dance is a joyous compendium of jitterbug, pelvic gyration and fantastic ensemble sequences that hark back to Phillips's Hot Gossip and the heyday of the first pop videos. And what's not to love about a show with hitch-hiker hand-jive and flared trousers with glitter patches?
Jackie - The Musical runs at the Churchill Theatre until 26 March and then tours.