Norwich Eye caught up with Norman and Sue taking time out together in Ed’s Diner in Chapelfield! photo © The Eye Snapper
Forty-six songs in under two hours? Can’t be done.
I mean, even if they were really bright and shiny and quick and poppy, surely…
Of course, the songs were short and snappy in those days. Nothing over three minutes, many a lot less. But we remember every single one of them, and sing along, even if we pretend not to.
These are the jukebox songs from the decade that invented the teenager. The clouds of war and the poverty of the 30s were their parent’s worries, this was the first young generation to be recognised as a force to be reckoned with, and a big market for dream sellers too.
Teenage dreams are hard to beat – and have a simple and urgent logic, usually. Dreamboats and Petticoats captures the urgency, the excitement, the simplicity, the fluidity and all the soaring hopes and dashed dreams of a teenager growing up in the Eastern edges of Cockney terrain where a day trip to Southend is the gateway to romance, risk, hope and despair.
This show is replete with gags, some so obvious we can get to the punchline just as the the stage actor does. This is no surprise when you see that the writers of this hit show are Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who gave us the The New Statesman, Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart and many other TV favourites.
The show starts with a reminiscing Bobby (Jimmie Johnston) talking to his granddaughter about his young days, and his Fender guitar. Jimmie re-appears throughout the show as Phil, Bobby’s dad, who comes across as Alfie Bass with a quiff and a rather nifty song and dance style.
We see young Bobby, brilliantly sung and performed by Alistair Higgins, as a schoolboy determined to do well and succeed but yearning to be a rock and roll singer too. He teams up with the swottish schoolgirl Laura to write the perfect pop song. Laura is at the heart of this show, and gets all our hearts fluttering. She is played in the most engaging and captivating manner by Elizabeth Carter who is enjoying her second major tour in this role.
But this is a yarn of teenage torment, and both have rivals. Norman (Alastair Hill) is the snazzy, confident frontman who knocks Bobby out of the band audition, while Sue (Laura Darton) is the glamorous girl who sets her cap at the baddest boy in town.
With Marks and Gran in charge of the scripts we expect, and get, a much more complex tale than simple boy meets girl, played out in a few snippets of dialogue but mostly in the clever use of contemporary pop songs. Sue is keen on Norman, while Laura only has eyes for Bobby. But Bobby is besotted with Sue, and Norman is starting to notice that Laura is growing up…
The seventeen strong cast sing, dance and play all the instruments you would expect from a pop record from the era. The cast are energetic and faultless, the music taking us all back to our memories of younger and simpler times – even if we were born years after these songs were hits.
Alistair Higgins looks like a teenager, but can master a Roy Orbison track with considerable panache. Elizabeth Carter as Laura holds our attention whenever she is on stage, with a carefully nuanced depiction of a young woman who is still just a young girl, but always one step ahead of the boy who is the object of her attention. She is also a fine singer.
Laura Darton as Sue gives depth to a girl who at first just seems to be out to get her man. She also shows breathtaking dance and physical skills and is the perfect counterpoint to the sharply posed and leather-jacketed Norman, who is shown by Alastair Hill to have rather more depth to his character than we might first expect.
Every member of this capable cast makes a complex and lively show look easy, but there is nothing easy in bringing such a clever show to the stage. All of them can sing the songs and dance the dances with impressive style, even if they are singing the songs that their grandparents fell in love to. The result is a show that is hard not to enjoy and easy to love, and guaranteed to get you on your feet and dancing as the cast dash out hit after hit in this joyous show.
Keep your eyes open and you may even catch up with some of the stars of this charming show in a suitably rock’n’roll setting – we bumped into Norman and Sue enjoying a milkshake in Ed’s Diner in Chapelfield! Now I wonder where Bobby and Laura were hiding…
© Julian Swainson 2017
Dreamboats and Petticoats, Monday 7-Saturday 12 August at 7.30pm, and Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets £8-£29. Discounts for Friends, Corporate Club, Over-60s, Under-18s and Groups.
To book, log onto www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.