Every Thursday between the years 1964 and 1993, teenage girls would rush to the newsagent to pick up the latest edition of their favourite magazine. In total 1,534 issues were published and for many ladies of a certain age the magazine described as “The best thing for girls, next to boys” taught them all they needed to know about going from being a girl to being a woman. So, why am I chatting about a 1970s teenage magazine when I am meant to be a theatre reviewer? Obviously it’s because at last Jackie the Musical has rolled into town and is currently filling the seats at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
Jackie (Janet Dibley) is a 54 year old divorcee and mother of 19 year old wannabe musical composer David (Michael Hamway) and is fed up with her life. She spends most of her evenings drinking prosecco with her best mate Jill (Lori Haley Fox) in their local bar, run by Frankie (Bob Harms). Whilst packing up her stuff to move house, Jackie finds a box full of copies of the magazine with the same name. Having a quick read through, Jackie is transported back to an earlier time when her young self (Daisy Steere) believed that life was full of possibilities and that every problem could be solved with a letter sent to Jackie magazine’s agony aunts Cathy (Laura Mullowney) and Claire (Hayley-Jo Whitney). The present day Jackie really wishes she could write to Cathy and Claire as she has all sorts of problems. There’s her ex-husband John (Graham Bickley) who has announced he is going to marry his newer, younger girlfriend Gemma (Tricia Adele Turner), and son David prefers writing songs with best bud Keith (Sam O’Hanlon) to going to college. More importantly, Jackie is lonely and would love to have a man in her life. Will some magic come into her life when she randomly dials a number on her phone and speaks to the mysterious Max (Nicholas Bailey)?
In the theatrical reviewing world, there seems to be a bit of snobbery about jukebox musicals and I will admit, I went to see Jackie The Musical with some trepidation. After all, although I grew up in the right period, I was never a teenage girl and am not really a great fan of the music of the era, apart from Abba obviously. Still, My friend Lynne persuaded me to go and, despite everything I had a thoroughly awesome time.
Writer Mike James really knows his audience and they were out in force for Jackie the Musical last night. From where I was sat it looked as if every lady of a certain age in the Wimbledon area had decided they deserved a night out. And they were not disappointed. Yes, I could say that the plot was a tad thin and that occasionally some of the songs seemed to be shoehorned into the story for the flimsiest of reasons, but ultimately, Jackie the Musical is great fun. Both Lynne and I started the evening with a grin on our faces and that never disappeared through the show. The pace is relentless and Director Anna Linstrum, really puts her cast through their paces – with some great and very energetic choreography from Arlene phillips – as one number follows another.
There were many elements to love during the show. It was interesting hearing the reaction of the audience at certain points – and Mike James’ writing was spot on – as they recognised or reacted to parts of the story. The moment where John called Gemma by the wrong name got a resounding and very audible intake of breath and pursed lips from many of the watchers. Musical highlights were many but my two favourite were Frankie singing ‘Puppy Love’ and then David’s rather explicit rendition of ‘20th Century Boy’ both of which really brought the house down.
The cast – beautifully and appropriately costumed by Tim Shortall – were uniformly great with the leads really bringing their various characters to life. Both Daisy Steere and Michael Hamway really stood out for me as young Jackie and David respectively. I really loved the naivety, innocence and sheer belief in the possibilities of life which really radiated from Daisy’s Young Jackie, reminded everyone of how we used to have a sunny optimism about things as we went through the halcyon teenage years.
To summarise then, Jackie the Musical is a really superb evening’s entertainment. Don’t be put off by the fact there is a definite target audience, I think that the show can be enjoyed by everyone that wants to go to the theatre and walk out just over two hours later grinning from ear to ear and feeling that you had just had a truly brilliant evening. Touring until the end of July Jackie the Musical should be a must see theatrical event for anyone that ‘Loves to Love’ likes ‘Dancing on a Saturday Night’ or just wants to exercise their ‘Tiger Feet’.
Review by Terry Eastham
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!
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.