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Dreamboats and Petticoats - Birmingham Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Dream Of A Nostalgic Show
There's so much nostalgia in this jukebox musical that you feel as though you have been transported back to the 1960's.

Dreamboats and Petticoats, tour, review, Birmingham, New Alexandra Theatre
Music and laughs in Dreamboats and Petticoats


You can almost taste the cans of Tizer that are strewn around the stage as teenagers rush off to see the launch of Psycho at the cinema and to try the new American style milkshake at Wimpy.

There's good reason Dreamboats and Petticoats has been such a success on tour and in London's West End, earning it a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for best new musical in 2010. Although it is predominantly about the music, it is also a slick production enhanced by a funny and romantic storyline.

The show is currently back on tour and I caught it at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre, where it stays from May 1 to 6.

Opening with a grandfather called Bobby discovering his old electric guitar in the attic, we go back in time as he reminisces about his youth with his grand-daughter.

The music comes thick and fast as the audience finds a young Bobby auditioning to be in a group, singing Let's Dance. He is quickly eclipsed by the arrogant, handsome Norman, who dazzles with a rendition of Dion's The Wanderer.

Dreamboats and Petticoats, tour, review, Birmingham, New Alexandra Theatre
Alastair Hill plays arrogant heart-throb Norman


There's a constant flow of rock'n'roll hits from between the late 1950's to early 1960's performed live by a talented band on stage and a cast of very strong singers.

They all play a group of likeable teenagers who hang out at a youth club and get mixed up in storylines about setting up a band, falling in love, going on a day trip to the beach and entering a national youth song writing competition. It's a bit like a British version of Grease.

At the heart of the story is swatty schoolgirl Laura, who is about to turn 16 and the younger sister of Bobby's best friend Ray. Laura obviously has a massive crush on Bobby although he doesn't realise as he is too besotted with sexy Sue, who in turn is obsessed with heart-throb Norman.

Playing Laura is Elizabeth Carter, whose voice shines out from the pack. Even hidden behind NHS glasses and pigtails, you can tell she will reveal herself to be a real beauty later in the show.

Equally as impressive is David Luke starring as Laura's brother Ray, who is a vivacious presence on stage. He's not just the comedy element as he also thrills the audience with various solo songs including Quarter To Three, Tell Laura I Love Her and Donna.

Dreamboats and Petticoats, tour, review, Birmingham, New Alexandra Theatre
Sassy Sue is the dream girl for teenage boys in Dreamboats and Petticoats


Dreamboats and Petticoats was first performed back in 2009 at The Churchill Theatre in Bromley, and has been in demand ever since. One fan even told me she is lining up to see the show six nights in a row during this tour. Its popularity has even spawned the sequel Dreamboats and Miniskirts.

Part of that success is because it revolves around charming characters who bring back a lot of everyday memories for the audience. There are constant references to the food, people and shops from that era with Mick Jagger and Cliff Richard the butt of various jokes. There's even a reference to the first episode of Coronation Street and how it won't last long.

More than that, the songs fit into the plot well and don't look like they have been crowbarred in there, like so many other jukebox musicals from recent years.

Then there are the colourful costumes and set, which is plastered with adverts, film posters and record covers from the period.

Dreamboats and Petticoats, tour, review, Birmingham, New Alexandra Theatre
A talented cast bring the 1960's to life


Ultimately, what's so charming about Dreamboats and Petticoats is that it is a feel-good piece of escapism, where the nastiest thing that happens is someone falling out of a window and you know that everyone is going to have a happy ending.

And once the storyline ends, the dancing begins with an encore to let the crowd enjoy the music with hits including Let's Twist Again, C'mon Everybody, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans and At The Hop.

This classy musical manages to enchant while also making you laugh, sing and dance down the aisles. It's a dream of a nostalgic show.

RATING:

Tickets for Dreamboats and Petticoats at New Alexandra Theatre and the rest of the tour are available from the ATG theatre website.
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Why? Nostalgic Rock'n'Roll Musical
When: Until May 6 in Birmingham and then on tour
Phone: 0844 871 3011
Where: New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham
Cost: 16.90 - 40.90
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