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Dreamboats and Petticoats at Churchill Theatre, Bromley

There is a storyline going on, but it’s not exactly gripping: Dreamboats and Petticoats is not the sort of show to be enjoyed for its plot, which is highly contrived in such a way as to almost crowbar yet more chart music from the 1950s and early 1960s. Indeed, I found it rather amusing that the story is virtually abandoned towards the end of the second half. There is no postscript, and the audience is not told what happens to any of the characters after the story abruptly stops.

Dreamboats and PetticoatsBut this is of no consequence to the audience’s enjoyment of the show. Part of me wonders whether the plot should be abandoned altogether, and the show revised to become a concert revue, celebrating the music of the era, reminding the older generations and informing the younger ones of the popular hits of the time, who made them popular, and what subsequent successes such artists, singers and songwriters went on to achieve. The producers have decided instead to continue the story in a sequel, called Dreamboats and Miniskirts – but that’s another review for another time.

As it is, there is sometimes minimal spoken dialogue before someone’s feelings are expressed in song once more. It’s impressively relentless, with forty-two musical numbers to get through, whilst still sending the audience home at a reasonable time. Metaphorically speaking, it’s almost entirely candyfloss – there aren’t really any struggles or major triumphs over adversity (the longings of young love hardly count), as the show portrays the era, rightly or wrongly, as a time when one could earn a reasonable living for reasonable work. Nobody had a credit card, and nobody used a foodbank: neither were in existence.

Perhaps it was a question of economics to set some of the scenes in St Mungo’s Youth Club, somewhere in Essex within a reasonable distance of the Ford Motor Company’s Dagenham plant (or so I assume from it being mentioned). A substantial portion of the show is set in Butlin’s Bognor Regis, for reasons (briefly) explained in the dialogue – both venues, and the youthfulness of many of the characters, allow for frankly unremarkable costumes. The choreography, too, is rather lukewarm, though perhaps it suits the fairly breezy and comfortable songs: ‘The Great Pretender’ and ‘Let’s Twist Again’ are in the line-up. ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Johnny B. Goode’ are not.

The draw for this touring production appears to be Mark Wynter, who actually had two singles that reached the top ten in 1962, ‘Venus in Blue Jeans’ and ‘Go Away Little Girl’. He is even given a few minutes in the show to rattle some of his back catalogue in the form of a medley – as himself, rather than his character of Larry, a manager for bands and singers. Wynter may not move around very much (there’s an ensemble around him that commands the stage quite sufficiently), though his voice remains in good form.

The matinee idol is Joseph Lukehurst’s Norman, the frontman of a band called ‘Norman and the Conquests’ (geddit?), oozing with confidence even when things don’t go his way. What becomes the central couple, Laura (Chloe Edwards-Wood, understudying for Elizabeth Carter) and Bobby (Jacob Fowler) possess a credible amount of on-stage chemistry, and it’s difficult not to root for them when their singer/songwriter ambitions have an opportunity to be realised in a way they couldn’t have reasonably foreseen.

It’s also worth mentioning David Benson’s Kenneth Williams. Spoiler alert: there’s a BBC Television competition to find the next act (or, if you share my views on Eurovision, victim) to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. Williams is the host, and Benson’s portrayal of him was spot on in terms of the mannerisms and vocabulary choices. (Benson has been playing Williams on and off for years, with his Edinburgh Fringe show about him having premiered in 1996.)

The band is on stage throughout and comprises actor-musicians who not only blend into various scenes but are very much part of proceedings. It’s very pleasant, to the point where some dramatic tension would be welcome, and an over-reliance on the musical numbers to provide entertainment value results in a less than optimal theatrical experience.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Hit recording star of Venus in Blue Jeans, Go Away Little Girl, It’s Almost Tomorrow and many more, Mark Wynter, will continue with the company of established Dreamboats and Petticoats favourites from the past fifteen years.

Elizabeth Carter continues as Laura and is joined by Jacob Fowler (Heathers the Musical) as Bobby. These two will lead the cast in the third musical inspired by the latest release in the series of smash-hit, multimillion-selling Dreamboats & Petticoats albums. Bringing On Back The Good Times is filled with wit, charm and songs from the golden era of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Also joining, as frontman Norman in the band ‘Norman and The Conquests,’ is Joseph Lukehurst (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

After the success of the Spring tour, the musical is at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley from Tues 12- Sat 16 July 2022.
https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/

King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Tue 19 Jul – Sat 23 Jul 2022

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