I don’t remember reading my big sister’s copies of Jackie, nor could I say I’ve ever knowingly listened to a David Cassidy or a David Essex song. So I’m perhaps not directly in the target audience for Jackie the Musical, a 70s jukebox show that takes inspiration from the pages of that weekly magazine for teenage girls. That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty to be enjoyed by all but rather that this is a very particular kind of nostalgia.
Janet Dibley’s Jackie is picking through the pieces of her life – in her 50s, about to be divorced, teenage dropout son – when she comes across a stash of paraphernalia from her girlhood in the attic. Old schoolbooks are soon discarded though when she finds some old copies of Jackie (the magazine) and as this is Jackie (the musical), a younger version of Jackie (the woman) manifests itself in her mind, to act as a kind of spirit guide through this time of emotional turbulence as she dips a toe into the world of online dating, aided by sparky best friend Jill, an excellent Lori Haley Fox.
The show is at its strongest when referencing the altogether more innocent world of teenage magazines and the advice they gave – rub lemons on your elbows, find out a boy’s character from the shape of his nose, or his ear lobe, never use tongue in a kiss on the first date… It is best exemplified in a rare moment of Mike James’ Book and the jukebox score working in perfect harmony when Daisy Steere’s young Jackie writes to agony aunts Cathy and Claire, Anna Linstrum’s direction turning it into a photostory complete with pop-up speech bubbles and as the issue is that her crush won’t get off the dancefloor, it segues perfectly into Tina Charles’ ’I Love to Love’.
Elsewhere, the show pads out the rather flimsy plot with any number of 70s classics from the likes of T-Rex, The Osmonds, 10cc and the Davids, Cassidy and Essex, which are enthusiastically and eclectically choreographed by Arlene Phillips. Sometimes it is jaw-droppingly good – the full company number to ‘Tiger Feet’, led by Bob Harms’ Frankie, is just superb – sometimes it is bizarre as in the eye-poppingly literal efforts of ‘Crazy Horses’, and sometimes it has to be functional, a side-effect of Tim Shortall’s attractively bright but a little too fussy set design – Act 1 closer ‘Love is in the Air’ is marred by the amount of OCD plant pot moving.
Ultimately it’s the kind of show that doesn’t bear too much examination – Jackie’s son David (an appealing Michael Hamway) mocks others for liking Spandau Ballet and Andy Williams, yet he’s the one singing David Essex songs… Instead, its charms are uncomplicatedly straight-forward as Dibley’s initially fragile Jackie looks back in order to move forward, growing in strength through dalliances with married men, sticky toffee puddings and the realisation that – as one of the final speech bubbles proudly shows – ‘older women rock’.
Review by Ian Foster
Once there was a time with no mobile phones, no apps, no texting, no e-mails and no twitter. Angst ridden teenage girls waited with bated breath by the letterbox for their weekly issue of Jackie Magazine… unless their big sister got there first! Jackie accompanied millions of girls through their teenage years in the ‘70’s and 80’s, years of boy trouble, ironing hair and problem solving from resident agony aunts, Cathy and Claire. The magazine supported and inspired those girls and, best of all, it was great fun.
Jackie The Musical revisits those heady days, and tells the story of a fifty-something divorcée who revisits her stash of well-thumbed Jackie magazines for the same reason she first read them nearly forty years ago: advice on how best to navigate the opposite sex.
The quizzes, the fashion tips, the ‘do’s and don’ts on a first date’ and above all the Cathy and Claire problem pages are all devoured eagerly by our plucky heroine ‘Jackie’ as she revisits the dizzy world of the teen bible. With her ex and a handsome new guy both on the scene, the valuable lessons she learnt as a girl begin to influence her future and Jackie discovers the one person in control of her life is – her.
Funny and feisty, with a sound track featuring the era’s most beloved and memorable hits, including the sounds of Pop Idols Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and Marc Bolan played live on stage, the show promises a whirlwind tour of Planet Seventies and a most fabulous night out!
Jackie The Musical 2016 (Further dates to be added)
22-26 March 2016 Bromley Churchill Theatre
29 March-2 April 2016 The Alhambra Theatre Bradford
5-9 April 2016 Brighton Theatre Royal
12-16 April 2016 Edinburgh Kings Theatre
19-23 April 2016 The Grand Theatre Blackpool
26-30 April 2016 Perth Concert Hall
10-14 May 2016 Wycombe Swan
17-21 May 2016 Manchester Opera House
24-28 May 2016 Birmingham Alexandra Theatre
7-11 June 2016 New Wimbledon Theatre
14-18 June 2016 The Orchard Theatre Dartford
21-25 June 2016 Malvern Festival Theatre
28 June-2 July 2016 Liverpool Empire
12-16 July 2016 Inverness Eden Court
19-23 July 2016 His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen
26-30 July 2016 King’s Theatre Glasgow
Jackie The Musical was commissioned by the Gardyne Theatre where the show premiered to critical and public acclaim in Autumn 2013. The 2016 UK tour is produced by The Gardyne Theatre, Arden Entertainment and Sally Wood, supported by DC Thomson.