Dreamboats and Miniskirts
A nice little show, but if only .....
The scene is back in Essex (this time it's 1963), the story, a follow on from the end of Bobby & Laura's No.1 hit song, and the cast & musicians are the same talented and energetic bunch as before but unfortunately that's where the similarities between the hugely successful Dreamboats and Petticoats and this latest bubblegum musical end. The program notes talked all about the emerging British pop culture, the Beatles, Stones, the influence of the Mersey sound and the London fashion scene but sadly, apart from one small scene set in Liverpool, the writers, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, decided to ignore the greatest back catalogue of British pop in favour of rolling out more Mid-American jukebox tunes.
A runaway first show sparking a huge following, spin off albums, mega marketing and thousands of fans was always going to be ripe for a follow up, but a major part of the success of the original was built on having first choice of the best songs to use to support the story. Writing a follow-up could have gone one of two ways; same again but use songs from the 'B' list, or take the vibe and step it into a new direction - unfortunately the writers opted for the easier first option and in doing so missed a great opportunity - think Grease 2 after Grease and you've got it.
I am not suggesting that the play list is not filled with hit after hit, but what was very disappointing was the absence of British pop. The story, which continues on from the end of the last show and occasionally gave a passing nod to the early 60's British revolution, could have shown how the Conquests had to change their style away from the late 50's to reflect the new wave of England-based music which stormed round the world and spawned a totally different sound. It could have made more about the band's trip to Liverpool to watch the embryonic Beatles and copy the fab 4's groundshaking style. It could have recognised that the London fashion scene demanded its own soundtrack. Instead, it reverted back to using the same American led formula of the original, shoehorning in more songs to 'tell the story' whilst actually leaving some in the audience just wishing for a few minutes of acting before the next aural assault.
Don't get me wrong, this is still a fantastic showcase for some very talented performers; the band is still as tight as ever, the girls vocals are crisp and clear and most of the boys hit their mark, nonemoreso than in the few acapella numbers. Stand out performances were Louise Olley as Sue who lit up every scene she appeared in, Chris Coxon on bass guitar and Chloe Edwards-Wood and Charlotte Peak on the Saxes.
The sets are fun, bright and full of energy, but the creativity and possibilities are stifled by the limited story and claustrophobic plot. It seems like the writers simply opted to throw in another song instead of a few minutes story-telling which leaves it feeling like a compilation album being performed live, rather than a musical story. Shame really, that said, if you love live music and early 60's American pop then you'll really enjoy the talent on show.