Dreamboats and Miniskirts
Congress Theatre, Eastbourne
Until August 30
Review by Kevin Anderson
Ah, that Sixties Sound. Half a century old, and yet timeless – and at the Congress Theatre this week, it is brought to new life with a freshness and energy that sweeps you off your feet.
Dreamboats and Miniskirts – the sequel to Bill Kenwright’s hugely successful Dreamboats and Petticoats – simply fills the stage and the theatre with a joyous wave of sound.
There is a lightweight and truthfully pretty clichéd storyline, but nobody minds a bit, for the show is really a vehicle for songs.
It might almost be a party game where you toss a pile of song titles into the air, and then build a story in the order in which they land.
The playlist is just fabulous. The songs cascade one after another, all delivered with terrific precision and musicianship.
Close your eyes and you can hear Dusty, or the Everly Brothers, or Roy Orbison.
The very flexibility of the performers is remarkable, switching seamlessly from Tamla to Beach Boys to Merseybeat.
Many of the numbers are actually turned from their rather spare original versions into much fuller orchestrations – and the better for it. We are nowadays, of course, in the age of the actor-musician, and almost all the ensemble play instruments live on stage.
The leading girls are outstanding. As characters, Essex girls before their time, but the moment they sing, they fill the theatre.
Anna Campkin’s Donna can belt with the best of them but her voice also has real quality and control. Elizabeth Carter as Laura has a lighter timbre but equal power.
Alex Beaumont is engaging in the male lead, Bobby, and his Orbison numbers are sensational.
The boys in the band play with a driving confidence, and the whole show is well lit, authentically dressed and laced with all the little details. Remember those Dansette portable gramophones….?
It is impossible not to like Dreamboats and Miniskirts. In fact, it’s the perfect show to bridge the generations.
If you are one of those Sixties children, go on, don’t just get to the Congress yourself – treat the grandchildren too, and start their musical education!