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Get thrown into the flamboyant universe of 1960s adolescence with Dreamboats and Petticoats – Review

This week, the Theatre Royal Brighton has on stage plenty of dancing and singing with Dreamboats and Petticoats. This show is for all those who joyfully embrace the cheesiness of musicals.

A group of teenagers hang out in a youth centre in the early 1960s, where bands get together and first romances blossom. Bobby (young: Alistair Higgins and older: Jimmy Johnson) experiences a brief 10-minute career as lead singer of a band until he promptly gets replaced by a handsomer and more confident young man, which propels Bobby to apply to a song writing contest and have his big musical break on a different field. He thus teams up with Laura (Elizabeth Carter), a girl whom he would have not otherwise noticed, and they begin working on a piece together. All of this amidst the anguish of young, unrequited love, dreams of becoming a rock star and the cast constantly breaking into song.

There is very little dialogue to fill up the moments between songs, which makes the play mostly a live music show with bits of story gluing each performance together. The play initially emerged in 2009 following the success of the compilation album of the same released two years earlier, which featured hit songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era. Just like the album, the play feeds on and fuels a nostalgia for adolescence in the 50s and 60s. Or at least a nostalgia for the way we like to imagine that period, with smoothies, balls and friends made at community centres, where most of the play takes place.

Although you may not have seen Dreamboats and Petticoats before I can almost assure you that you’ll know a few of the songs. Remember Let’s Twist Again? Da Do Ron Ron? They’re the sort of songs that you have no idea where you know them from yet you know every word. The music fits the context of the 60’s well; it’s the sort of rock ‘n’ roll that you can’t help but tap your foot to.

The band are part of the story so you get to connect with the musicians in a way that you don’t when the band are hidden under the stage like in most musicals. The repeated cheesy riffs will be in your head long after you leave the theatre but they’re sure to put a smile on your face. The instrumentation doesn’t just involve that classic 60’s Fender guitar, there’s also a lot of brass chucked in there for good measure! From rock ‘n’ roll jives to acapella ballads the music pulls you closer to the narrative of the story and promises to get you up on your feet and dancing by the end of the show.

Featured Image: Pamela Raith Photography

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