Oct 10 2012 By Barry Dix
Many trendy academics are all too happy to espouse the controversial theory that there was no decent pop music before The Beatles.
It was all over-produced sloppy ballads and banal outpourings of teenage angst, they will tell you.
Well, it might be a little churlish of me to state in the week that marked the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s first chart hit, Love Me Do, but that simply isn’t true – and there’s no greater Beatles fan than me.
Some of the most glorious pop songs ever committed to vinyl were laid down in the very early 60s, honed to perfection by legends like Roy Orbison, Dion and Johnny Kidd and The Pirates.
And there’s no better way of becoming acquainted or being reintroduced to those times than through the award-winning Dreamboats and Petticoats, which from humble beginnings in a provincial theatre in Kent has become a West End sensation, with numerous touring productions wowing audiences all over the UK.
The latest touring version arrived at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, this week, the third time the show has graced this lovely old venue.
Pop music fans and lovers of nostalgia just can’t get enough of Dreamboats it seems and it was refreshing to see at Windsor on Tuesday evening that though the bulk of the audience was ‘of a certain age’ there were plenty of young people, even teenagers, revelling in the sights and sounds of half a century ago, recreated on stage by a multi-talented and breathtakingly-energetic cast.
In the absence of one of the main members – Scott Haining as teenage wannabe pop star Bobby – it fell on understudy James Nitti to step in to the pivotal role.
Despite only just graduating from Guildford School of Acting, James excelled, showing no obvious sign of nerves and punching out some impressive vocal performances, even on challenging songs like the Orbison showstopper In Dreams.
His duets with Laura, played by Elizabeth Carter, were a joy, particularly the exquisite blending of the two classics Who’s Sorry Now and Runaway.
Elizabeth is outstanding as the pig-tailed, bespectacled school swot who blossoms when she becomes ‘Sweet 16’ – cue another song!
To be honest, the entire cast could not be more impressive, from Ben James-Ellis as the egotistical show-off Norman, to the senior member, X Factor favourite Terry Winstanley, who at the grand old age of 52, shows he can belt out the timeless favourites as well as his younger colleagues.
Amy Diamond as buxom Sue and Anna Campkin as her friend Donna are eye-catching an d confident, displaying perfect comic timing and powerful singing voices, while there is ideal back-up from Gavin Barnes (look out for his hilarious trombone solo) and Dan O’Brien, along with a hugely-impressive backing band who, as well as acting, recreated those early 60s sound with skill and due reverence, though they and probably even their parents were not even born when the originals filled the airwaves.
The sets are outstanding, the costumes colourfully-authentic and there’s a lovely sprinkling of comedy.
Skilfully directed by Bob Thompson, this version is all we’ve come to expect from Dreamboats – inducing pangs of nostalgia, laughter, tears and all manner of emotions, but most of all bringing back to life some of the most wonderful pop songs ever written.
I’ve seen it twice already – and if I could I’d be back every night this week!
Dreamboats and Petticoats is at The Theatre Royal Windsor until this Saturday (October 13). Contact the box office on 01753 853888 or www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk