On the hottest day ever (so far!) I hauled myself along the M8 to Glasgow to this touring show. The question was – would it, could it, bring back the good times at the King’s this week?
The third instalment of Bill Kenwright’s Dreamboats and Petticoats franchise, set in the mid 1960’s and following the trials and tribulations of rock ‘n roll band, Norman and the Conquests, from youth club dive to Butlins at Bognor Regis, aka ‘bonking by the sea’.
At the centre of the story is the ongoing relationship of Laura and Bobby played by Elizabeth Carter and Jacob Fowler, can their love survive a Summer apart, can Bobby resist the wall-to -wall crumpet of Butlins and will Laura escape the clutches of Frankie Howard where she is booked for the Summer season at the Palace Theatre Torquay? This has all the ingredients of Carry On Singing. Now there is an idea…?
Elizabeth Carter as Laura has had a long running on-off love affair with Dreamboats and Petticoats having played in the original UK tour in 2012 (and in 2017) and as Laura again in Dreamboats and Miniskirts in the 2015 UK tour. Carter delivers crisp dialogue and the musical numbers flow effortlessly from her. But perhaps too effortlessly?
I went hoping for the energy and the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll of the sixties, the summer of love, and at times it does come out here, like when The Conquests eventually ditch Norman and belt out ‘Hang on Sloopy’. There are goosebumps! Similarly, when Sue played by Lauren Anderson-Oakley passionately renders the Dusty Springfield hit ‘I just don’t know what to do with myself’, following her stage partner Normans’ exit stage right with two saxophone playing bimbos, we believe her.
Kenwright’s direction generally steers this piece into a safe territory and takes us on a nostalgic family friendly roller coaster ride down memory lane, filled with suitably colourful and loveable characters, singing and dancing their way through many much-loved rollicking rock ‘n roll hits. Carole Todd’s choreography fizzes with 60’s energy and hits the right note with the highlight being Shirley Ellis’ The Clapping Song, energetically sung and danced by Donna, played by Samara Clarke. Alexandra Stewart’s Costumes capture the mood of the time, the girls in glitz ‘n glam short dresses and the boys in shoelace ties and winkle pickers shoes (ask your grannie!).
Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, affectionately known in the trade as Lo and Mo, and also responsible for hit shows like The New Statesman and Birds of A Feather team up again, and in this script, return to the point of their first meeting, Butlins. The double entendres come thick and fast and the script does not ever take itself too seriously. Most of the dialogue is simply a stepping stone between the musical numbers. There is little room for any real character development, but no-one is complaining. We all recognise that the aim is to enable the music to flow, and it certainly does that.
It is of course the impressive live music that takes centre stage here. The sound at times was extraordinary and the acoustics within the Kings, perfect for this show. Many plaudits must go to Chris Whybrow as the Sound Designer and Keith Strachan for the music production and arrangements, which were at times genius. I particularly liked the arrangement on Baby, now that I’ve found you with Bobby and Laura touchingly on the phone to each other. Having said all of that there were some minor musical flaws, and microphone levels were a little high particularly, ironically, on the title song Bringing On Back The Good Times.
Mike Lloyd camps it up for the flamboyantly militant Butlins Holiday manager Percy, and doubles as the wonderful acapella base beat box for Blue Moon, one of the many highlights. But perhaps the stand out 5 minutes of the whole show belong to David Benson as the much missed and loved Kenneth Williams, presenting Eurovision. The elongated vowels take a moment to register, but after a moment of rebooting the brain to Williams’ wonderful unmistakable delivery you are transported back in time and with the audience hooting with laughter, and Williams breaking the fourth wall to admonish the front row, ‘oooo stop it!’, this is pure unexpected joy. Which caused me to look a little deeper into Benson’s back story and find the incredible one man show from 1997 Think No Evil of Us: My life with Kenneth Williams, fans you know where to look!
Sean Cavanagh’s set is minimal but colourful a patchwork of music gig posters and ticket stubs in art deco linage to both sides, framing centre stage. Floating neon signage works well to alert us to the various locations and this simple approach allows a nice continuity to let the music flow. And boy, does it flow!
By the end everyone was on their feet and dancing in the aisles, even grannie! Don’t expect too much and you will not be disappointed!
Running time – 2 hours 20 mins (with 15min interval), A Juke box musical your grannie will love, probably! Playing until 23rd July 2022 at Kings Theatre Glasgow https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dreamboats-and-petticoats/kings-theatre-glasgow/
Reviewer: Greg Holstead
Reviewed: 19th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★