Dreamboats and Petticoats was a fun, energetic and musically-talented telling of what was unfortunately a very weak story.
This musical aims to relive the raw energy of the emergence of rock’n’roll and teenage-hood in Britain in 1961. Set primarily at the local youth club, it tells the tale of teenage romance, budding bands and coming of age, all with the backdrop of well-known hits of the late 50s and 60s.
The music and singing is all performed live and is done extremely well. The musicians, who all dance and act as well, are truly energized and very sharp. The lead guitarist, Robert Dalton, had some great twanging solos and David Jay Douglas really showcased just what a bass guitar is capable of. There was also rousing brass accompaniment, including Victoria Quigley demonstrating impressive stage presence and showmanship on baritone sax.
The singing was top-notch too, but while everyone was upbeat, in tune and blasting out hits like Shakin’ All Over and Great Pretender, it was far too polished to really capture the ground-breaking, culture-changing power that these hits had when they came out. The program claims that ‘the sound that would define a generation’ is, for the protagonists, ‘raw, thrilling…and all theirs.’ There were, however, very few convincing thrills.
This is not to say Dreamboats and Petticoats isn’t fun. With such great music and excellent performers, it can’t fail to get you dancing in your seat and grinning as familiar chords and refrains ring out. But they are isolated moments, and as a whole, the story just doesn’t quite hang together.
The moments that do work are wonderful. Will Finalson, who plays Ray, singing Poetry in Motion is beautiful and can’t help but make you swoon a little. And in fact it is Ray and Donna’s relationship that is the most convincing and entertaining of the show, perhaps because it retains a level of teenage naivety, which places it in the right era.
The other characters, Bobby, Laura, Norman and Sue, are out of sync with 1961 and the meaning and sentiment behind the songs they are singing. Added to that is the progression of their relationships, which seems to have been tailored too much around the songs, and not enough around believability.
If you are a fan of 50s hits and lively musicals then you should see Dreamboats and Petticoats, but go with the right expectations. This isn’t a true evocation of what the revolutionary music of the era really stood for, and is instead a jolly homage told through a story that’s really just there to fill the gaps between familiar and fabulous songs.