Dreamboats and Petticoats – Review – Leeds Grand
Dreamboats and Petticoats – Review
Leeds Grand, July 2017
by Matthew Walker
The 2017 UK tour of feel-good jukebox musical Dreamboats and Petticoats arrives in style at the glorious Grand Theatre & Opera House in Leeds for a run of six nights, bringing with it an abundance of nostalgia and rock ‘n’ roll classics.
That doesn’t mean the show can only be enjoyed by those who may have been love-struck teenagers in the early 1960s – but it definitely helps. As many will tell you, in those days, there was no such thing as Facebook, and if teenagers wanted to chat and socialise then they had to physically be in the same room.
The story centres on a group of aspiring musicians at local youth club St Mungo’s. Among them is budding singer Bobby (Alistair Higgins), who is trying his luck at becoming the lead singer for band. Music isn’t the only thing that interests Bobby though, as he also has his eye on (Runaround) Sue (Laura Darton). However, in both cases he loses out to Norman (Alastair Hill), who has the looks, the voice and the swagger. Meanwhile, school swot and talented-songwriter Laura (Elizabeth Carter) wants to be ‘Bobby’s Girl’.
“A soundtrack of classic rock ‘n’ roll”
A national song writing competition brings Bobby and Laura together. But when Norman earns Sue’s wrath, she turns her attention to Bobby, making almost all of his dreams come true at once, and leaving a jilted Laura to fall prey to the charms of Norman.
The characters of Ray (David Luke) – Bobby’s best friend and Laura’s older brother, Donna (Gracie Johnson) – Sue’s best friend and Ray’s love interest, and Bobby’s dad Phil (Jimmy Johnston), add a lot of depth to the story, as well as a lot of gags, as their own sub-plots revolve around those of Bobby, Laura, Norman and Sue.
The story line is punctuated with a soundtrack of classic rock ‘n’ roll hits. Some of the which aid the narrative better than others, for example, ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ and ‘Teenager in Love’ sung by Laura, and Bobby’s solos ‘In Dreams’ and ‘Only the Lonely’. These capture the unrequited love and teenage angst felt by the two main characters, while ‘The Wanderer’ and later ‘Great Pretender’ help show the two sides of Norman.
Meanwhile, the likes of toe-tappers ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Palisades Park’ and ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’ keep the story bouncing along.
Dreamboats and Petticoats is written by duo Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who were behind big 1990s sitcoms Birds of a Feather and Goodnight Sweetheart, and they manage to inject a lot of humour into the situation. Much of it is accessible to all, as the banter between the youth club goers and the father-son relationship between Bobby and Phil are timeless – although perhaps they’re expressed mostly through social media nowadays.
However, it will strike a particular chord with those who would have been love-struck teenagers 55 years ago, for whom the local youth club was their version of Facebook – with cultural references, like the beginning of Coronation Street, the Beatles visiting Hamburg and the fancy new M1 motorway. These are definitely some nice little ‘in jokes’ for those of that generation.
No matter your age, the music is so superbly performed, from the astonishing vocals of the like of Laura, Bobby and Norman, to the talents of Norman’s band The Conquests and duo of saxophonists, who play throughout, that Dreamboats and Petticoats is a treat for all musical lovers and fans of the era.
You will start off toe-tapping, but eventually you’ll be dancing in the aisles.