Savoy Theatre, London WC2
Opened 27 July, 2009

Well, it makes a change from the stage musical of the movie: this is the stage musical of the compilation CD. The selection of late 1950s/early ’60s pop classics has shifted hundreds of thousands of copies, and ever-canny producer Bill Kenwright has covered all his bases by putting together a show that combines songs for the late-middle-aged market with performers from The X Factor, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks and a book by TV comedy big-hitters Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran.
This isn’t simply a mock-concert or a staged slice of biography or history. The story may be flimsy, the kind of thing that makes Expresso Bongo look like Ingmar Bergman, but it is a story. Indeed, the tale of teen boy and teen girl finally getting together after all those nights down the local youth club in 1961 is deliberately stereotypical, but Marks & Gran treat their brief with a playful respect and come up with a number of good lines. (“I’m free Saturday night,” announces a predatory girl, to which her friend ripostes, “Rest of the week she’s half a crown.”) The atmosphere is augmented by using a live onstage band drawn from the performers rather than hiding them behind drapes, in the pit or worst of all pre-recording them, and the clutch of original numbers are efficient pastiches.
Scott Bruton is reasonably appealing as protagonist Bobby, and has a more than fair singing voice. As his eventually-beloved Laura, Daisy Wood-Davis in her professional stage debut looks so plausible in a school uniform that an unintended note of Humbert & Lolita is struck when Ben Freeman’s interloper Norman hits on her. (In an acknowledgement of the slightly askew casting, Norman acknowledges Laura’s assertion that she is nearly sixteen with “And I’m nearly thi— er, twenty.”) As befits his greater experience, Freeman has a more diverse vocal arsenal, even pastiching the style of The Platters’ Tony Williams on “The Great Pretender”. In contrast, Jennifer Biddall and Emma Hatton too often let loose the brief, anachronistic yelp all too common amongst contemporary singers on a particularly belted-out syllable. There may not be the market to ensure Dreamboats a protracted run, but it has done well on tour and, Lord knows, there is more mystifying and less deserving fare currently playing in some major houses.
Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

Return to index of reviews for the year 2009

Return to master reviews index

Return to main theatre page

Return to Shutters homepage