Monday, 19 June 2017

REVIEW: Dreamboats and Petticoats at Sunderland Empire

Musicals In Love

Dreamboats and Petticoats the Musical
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 24th June 2017

The classic tale of teenage love set in the early 60s is back. Written by the duo behind tv’s Shine On Harvey Moon, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, the tale combines good storytelling with many great hits of the era.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Schoolgirl Laura (Elizabeth Carter) fancies older lad Bobby (Alistair Higgins) who fancies older girl Sue (Laura Darton) who fancies old lad Norman (Alastair Hill). In other words, at the start everyone seems to be interested in someone older and not noticing the signs that someone else is interested in them.  Add to this youth club mayhem the band needing a new singer. Bobby auditions but is quickly replaced by Norman whose greater worldly experience enables him to seize control of the band.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
Things become even more complex when Bobby’s Dad (Jimmy Johnston), who runs the youth club, announces a national songwriting competition. Norman, Laura and Bobby feel they have what it takes to write a successful song.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
On the surface it is innocent times and crushes develop and lads fall out resulting in a comedy of errors. Marks and Gran do a superb job of not making the love triangles too complicated to understand and keeping the humour  going throughout the show. Director Bob Thomson keeps a tight ship with a good pace throughout.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
A point is made at the start that the music will all be performed live on stage. Sure enough we have a vibrant live band under musical director Sheridan Lloyd. In addition to the main band core of guitars, keys, bass and drums, there are additional actors who play saxophones, trombones and a trumpet when the songs need it. This is a really tight band who didn’t put a foot wrong and added a vibrant feel to the show.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
The costumes designed by Sean Cavanagh and Brigid Guy were colourful and seemed to be in keeping with the era. The dresses in particular came in to great effect during the choreography from Caroline Todd.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
The cast kept a positive energy throughout the show.  There were some cracking solo singing spots during memorable hits like The Wanderer (Alistair Hill), In Dreams , Only Sixteen (Alistair Higgins) and Teenager In Love (our very own Elizabeth Carter). The a cappella version of Poetry In Motion (David Luke) was a real treat.  There are not many jukebox musicals in which the lead on stage stops singing so the audience can sing the next line but that happened tonight.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
We have previously reviewed the sequel Dreamboats and Miniskirts and the other reviewers on the evening kept saying the weak book meant it was inferior to the original. Now that we’ve seen the original Dreamboats and Petticoats we are inclined to agree - it is the superior show.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
A great cast deliver both the classic songs and the love tale with real energy.  The story may be as old as history itself but when has that stopped a show being fun? Add a live band playing a fabulous compilation of hits and you can see why the show is still popular during its 10thanniversary tour.

Review by Stephen Oliver.

The full cast includes:
Elizabeth Carter as Laura
Jimmy Johnston as Phil/Older Bobby
Alistair Higgins as Bobby
Alistair Hill as Norman
Laura Darton as Sue
Gracie Johnson          as Donna
David Luke as Ray
Henry Alexander as Colin
Jay Osborne as Richard
Rob Gathercole         as Jeremy
Lauren Chinery as Babs
Josh Tye as Derek
Sheridan Lloyd as Andy
Billy Stookes as Barry
Mike Lloyd as Frank/Slugger
Chloe Edwards-Woods as Daisy/Brenda
Alan Howell as Eric
Stephanie Hackett as ASM/Swing

The Creative team includes:

Produced by Bill Kenwright
Directed by Bob Tomson
Choreographed by Carole Todd
Designed by Sean Cavanagh
Sound Designed by Dan Samson
Lighting Designed by Tim Oliver
Executive Producer Brian Berg

Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or *calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

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