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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Peggy Sue Got Married
Shaftesbury Theatre      Autumn 2001

This new musical is polished, professional and high in energy, and if you can overlook some nagging inconsistencies of characterisation, tone and musical styles, you should enjoy it.

It's based, of course, on the 1986 film in which Kathleen Turner played a forty-something woman who magically goes back to her high school days and tries to get her life right this time, only to have it all turn out pretty much the same.

The screenwriters of the film, Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling, have joined forces with Bob Gaudio, former member and chief composer of the 1950s singing group The Four Seasons (Sherry, Walk Like a Man, etc),and there's a funny essay in the programme about the long process of getting the musical version to the stage.

A lot about the show is good. You may recall that Peggy Sue's high school sweetheart was the lead singer in a boy group, and there are several first-rate pastiche 1960s pop songs for the boys.

One awkwardness of the show, though, is that the rest of the score isn't in the same musical mode -- in fact, the styles jump around so much that the show has no clear sound of its own.

One of the best numbers, Raw Youth, in which Peggy Sue shocks the high school girls with her open sexuality, is pure Broadway, while the big ballad, Nights Like This, sounds like a generic out-take from Miss Saigon or any other 1980s musical.

The powerful first act climax, Two Kinds Of Fire (Peggy's duet with the high school rebel), sounds like a Jim Steadman Meat Loaf number, while most of the plot-driven songs are just dead prose awkwardly shoehorned into the music.

Some of the same disjointedness is true in the story line. The authors haven't quite decided whether Peggy Sue should embrace her second chance enthusiastically or be disoriented by it, and so she's a little of both, alternatingly.

The rebellious boy enters the show about half-way through, just long enough for Peggy to be tempted by him, but then discarded once he's served his plot function.

A catty high school gossip is built up briefly, just to allow the actress one big number, but then more-or-less forgotten about; and the show never seems to know what it feels about Peggy's parents and brother.

The one thing I remember most about the film is that Kathleen Turner just wasn't believable as a 17 year old, and Ruthie Henshall has much the same problem.

She's a trim bundle of high energy and sings like a powerhouse, but something in her direction or costuming just never allows the leap of imagination that she's suddenly become a teenager.

Andrew Kennedy does have the boyish charm of a slightly dim but basically decent high school boy, and he has a real way with the pastiche songs.

Gavin Lee isn't beguilingly comic enough (in the Jerry Lewis-Jim Carrey mode) as the class nerd, and Tim Howar is given too little time to create more than a quick sketch as the slightly ridiculous would-be beatnik.

Director Kelly Robinson keeps things moving without overcoming any of the obstacles and inconsistencies I've noted, and choreographer Sergio Trujillo contributes some absolutely first-rate dance numbers.

And, oh yes, they've got the bras and bustlines all wrong for 1960.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Peggy Sue Got Married - Shaftsbury Theatre 2001