The Edinburgh Playhouse
Stagecraft: Book: Performance:
As I sat in the Playhouse last night, basking in the melody-driven cheeky chirpiness of Bill Kenwright’s widely-loved musical, Dreamboats & Petticoats, I had a sudden blast of foresight; that I was watching a classic being born. D&P is not an instant classic, however, but an a witty piece of historical archiving that has captured an era perfectly in its theatrical time-capsule. The epoch is 1961, when fender stratocasters were about to change the sonic highways forever, & female sexuality was about to explode in a way not seen since the Amazons burst out of the Caucasus. As the war babies hit puberty, popular music was being claimed more & more by these massed phalanxes of liberated teenagers, & in youth clubs all across England & America, future stars of the swinging sixties were performing their first gigs.
Dreambots & Petticoats is jam-packed full of brilliant songs, such as Shakin’ All Over, Da Do Ron Ron & Lets Twist Again, to name just three. These are then performed by a youthful, bouncy cast, & the whole thing felt rather like being in a luscious mountain valley, where the babble of crystal brooks all blended in an invigorating whole. What marks out this musical as special is the fact that the songs are played with extreme talent live on stage by a band who also get involved in the acting. Opera Comique at its most modern best & thrilling to watch at times. The Book is excellent; songwise it is impossible to fail when one can draw on the immeasurable brilliance of the 1960s, while the dialogue is funny in an ‘Only Fools & Horses’ meets Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday’ kinda way. Although I have seen Kenwright do better with his stagecraft; it was effective enough, with a certainly cool touch coming with a couple of dodgems being driven onto stage to represent a funfair down Southend-on-Sea.
Dreamboats & Petticoats is a nostalgic ride through an amazing period of history; it has all the right songs, all the right clobber & all the right moves. The overall picture has been painted so well that as I stated at the start of this review, D&P should at one time in the deep future be remembered as fondly as we 21st centuryites enjoy Jane Austen.
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen