Sunday, October 2

Dreamboats and Petticoats – The Alexandra, Birmingham

“Petticoats and Dreamcoats’” first incarnation arrived in theatres over eleven years ago and happily and squarely hit their target demographic straight in the bulls’ eye. It was preppy and fun and joyous and brought back many memories for those who lived through the years portrayed. This latest re-incarnation is ten years on as is its target audience and perhaps a little less eager to jump to its feet.

This is a show holding great memories for those who were there – particularly Butlins’ and a youth club – but holding little else for the rest of us. The plot is scant and characters merely cyphers – but what holds it together is the music and, though the choices are not the most memorable of the period, there are a few great tunes to bop to. If you can still bop. “Lipstick on Your Collar”, “Save the Last Dance For Me”, “Stop! In the Name of Love”. Some are painfully shoe-horned in – one character says, “That’ll happen once in a blue moon” and cue song…

There are some lovely performances from the young and talented cast including many instrumentalists. Tony Blackburn has been exhumed to add an opening voice-over informing us everything is played live, which is a depressing reflection on other musicals at the moment. Every performer produced an instrument at some point be it guitar, saxophone, ukulele or trombone and proved themselves adept musicians. David Ribi as Bobby and Elizabeth Carter as Laura both gave stand out performances as two delightful lovers – though it’s interesting to note a jukebox musical set in the sixties with two lead characters called Laura and Bobby contains neither “Tell Laura I Love Her” or “I Wanna Be Bobby’s Girl”. I wonder why…

Mark Wynter, an actually live star of the sixties, defies his years by playing both Larry the agent and, with a swift change of jacket, himself. He brings a genuine feel of the period which others could only emulate.

The greatest delight of the evening, though, is David Benson who deftly plays both an older Bobby and later Bobby’s father and, in part two, deploys a devastatingly perfect Kenneth Williams impression and has the audience in the palm of his hand. It was a joy to behold and masterfully presented.

Though it is not quite at the level of its previous version there are nuggets to enjoy, especially Benson, and by the end the audience were on their feet.

Dreamboats and Petticoats continues at The Alexandra until 26th March,

Reviewer: Peter Kinnock

Reviewed: 21st March 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★