Musical is a real dream of a show

AS plots go it’s pretty slight, but Dreamboats and Petticoats, the jukebox musical at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal this week, could scarcely be more fun.

This lively time-machine takes us back to 1961, as Dad finds an old Dansette record player in the attic. His younger self, would-be pop star Bobby, then had two ambitions at St Mungo’s Youth Club in Essex – making the big-time and impressing the local siren, Sue.

Things look promising but then Norman arrives, a name hardly resonant of teen idols even in those days but soon the leader of a rising pop group, Norman and the Conquests. He quickly becomes a hit with these Essex girls.

Needless to say, Norman moves in on Sue (cue Runaround Sue, of course) but Bobby finds solace in his best mate’s sister, 15-year-old Laura. She’s plain and bespectacled but a songwriter who shows every sign of becoming the Sixties’ version of Cathy Dennis.

Off they go on a youth club outing to Southend, teaming up to enter a national songwriting competition and so the tale unfolds, as more than 40 numbers from the pre-Beatles era of Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Craig Douglas, Chubby Checker, Neil Sedaka etc. are performed live.

Such musical chestnuts are given a fresh lease of life by this classy outfit and, on a more serious note, some of the uncertainties, misunderstandings and hangups of being a teenager in that innocent age are explored.

This is a young cast but it demonstrates the wealth of up and coming talent in British theatre. David Ribi (Bobby), Samantha Dorrance (Laura), Ben James-Ellis (Norman) and Katie Birtill (Sue) excel in the leads and Graeme Henderson, as the older Bobby, adds a wealth of stage experience to the proceedings.

The action is set against a backdrop of 1960s memorabilia and a word, too, for the programme which is a first-class read.

This nostalgic feast of live musical fun bounces along to the songwriting finals where Bobby and Laura find themselves in competition with two other unknowns whose story might be worth telling someday, a certain ‘Paul Lennon and John McCartney’.

The experienced sitcom duo Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran produced a show which is not, perhaps, a great musical but one which is delighting audiences nationwide and in the West End.

A slim tale, maybe, but that’s part of its charm.