The Theatreguide.London Review
Dreamboats and Petticoats
Savoy Theatre Summer-Autumn 2009; Playhouse Theatre 2010-2012; Wyndhams Theatre 2012-2013
The ultimate jukebox musical, Dreamboats and Petticoats is actually based on the greatest-hits compilation CD of the same name, the record company commissioning a script by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran to plug cover versions of more than 40 1950s and 1960s hits into.
The book is strictly formulaic and by-the-numbers, with a youth centre and some guys starting a band, and a nice boy and nice girl and bad girl and bad boy, who sort themselves out into the right pairings by the end. Every fourth or fifth line of dialogue is a song cue, and those that can't be fit into the story become part of band rehearsals or party scenes.
The songs are a typical compilation album mix, things like In Dreams, Do You Wanna Dance, Great Pretender, Teenager in Love, To Know Him Is To Love Him, and the like (You can probably guess where they plug into the plot).
They're not the original recordings, but are sung and played by the onstage cast, which sometimes creates the feel of those bargain-bin compilation CDs with cover versions by anonymous studio musicians.
The cast includes one former X Factor contestant, one ten-year Emmerdale veteran and one whose credits include the Royal Variety Show Aftershow Party. But the overall impression is of perky and attractive but essentially faceless young performers, more Butlins than West End.
Only Jennifer Biddell (the bad girl) stands out - she dances well and generates a sexual frisson pretty much absent in the G-rated show.
Still, the songs are good, and even cover versions are fun if you don't set your standards too high. Certainly by the obligatory everyone-on-your-feet-clapping-along finale, with the sound levels at ear-damage volume, much of the audience is on their feet bopping along.
As a compilation show Dreamboats and Petticoats is of the same genre as Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You. But it is nowhere near the same class, and you must prime yourself not to expect much in order to enjoy what you get.
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