Theatre review: Dreamboats and petticoats at Manchester Palace Theatre

It's cold, it's dark and I needed cheering up on a Monday evening - so what better than a song and dance?
Dreamboats and Petticoats - Palace Theatre, ManchesterDreamboats and Petticoats - Palace Theatre, Manchester
Dreamboats and Petticoats - Palace Theatre, Manchester

Dreamcoats and Petticoats has rock and rolled its way to Manchester’s Palace Theatre, a riot of ra-ra skirts, teenage angst and madcap cultural references, all wrapped up in Bill Kenwright’s trademark production values.

This is a Olivier-award nominated musical, but not one with any pretensions.

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Instead this is a vehicle for a joyous and nostalgic extravaganza of the empowering, powerful, music of the fifties and early sixties that saw a generation gradually liberated from post-war restrictions into a gradually more permissive society.

Inspired by a music album of the same name, Dreamcoats and Petticoats showcases the evolution of the teenager as a distinct demographic group, through their adolescent yearnings played out through the thrilling music, lyrics and guitars.

Set in 1961, the storyline follows Bobby (Alistair Higgins), Ray (David Luke), Laura (Elizabeth Carter), Sue (Laura Darton) and Donna (Gracie Johnston) as they explore this new universe via their local youth group, a trip to Southend, and the chance to compete in a songwriting competition.

The performance joyously races through the soundtrack of these youngsters’ lives with their flouncy dresses, big hair and suits, still in thrall to their elders, but gradually loosening the reins via the lyrics and empowerment of Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee-Lewis, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Dion and the Belmonts.

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This is a polished, but not too polished, ensemble performance which see a small but multi-talented cast cover more than 40 evocative numbers from ‘Let’s Dance, ‘Bobby’s Girls’,to ‘Let’s Twist again’ and ‘Only sixteen’ live and with irrepressible energy that sees the audience on it’s feet and dancing more than once.

All the music is played and sung live on stage via the cast, who sing, dance and play the guitar and saxophone with an accomplishment only dreamed of by auditionees for X Factor.

Dreamcoats and Petticoats is playing at Manchester Place Theatre until March 4.

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