Dreamboats & Miniskirts at The Liverpool Empire

Posted on 26 August 2015
By Chris High
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In the programme of Dreamboats and Miniskirts, which is currently running at The Liverpool Empire Theatre, there is an article entitled “A Vintage 12 Months for British Pop”. This of course is referring to 1963, when The Beatles were on the cusp of greatness, Billy Fury and Cliff Richard with his Shadows were at their zenith, whereas The Rolling Stones were newly born.

Does any of this greatness transfer to the stage? Well, to be perfectly honest, although the music is there in all of its abundant finery – and despite it all being performed live and extremely well – the concept that lies behind proceedings is decidedly thin and somewhat tired.

Unlike, for example, Love Me Tender which was staged here recently, the producers seem to have forgotten one very important element of the early sixties scene, that being the fun that youngsters were having whilst they struggled through their daily lives and dreaming of stardom.

In fact at times Dreamboats and Miniskirts is somewhat akin to watching a less than exciting episode of Heartbeat on a chilly Sunday evening rather than a night out at the theatre, because all that’s missing are the comfy slippers, a blazing hearth and a cat curled up on the rug.

Yes, it really is that twee in places and although blood, gore, sex and violence remain unrequested, surely just a little bit of observable grist to the mill would be nice.A couple of problems at least that might be a little less easily solved, perhaps, just so the characters become more real and less cardboard cut out in their actions and reactions.

Indeed if there is one thing that conjures up the colour and vibrancy of the age it is the impressive set which is adorned with posters of staples such as Kellogs Ricicles, Carry On films, Colgate and billboards advertising some of the great artists about at the time and more. Yet even this splash of nostalgia fails to fully ignite what is happening on stage.

Which is a shame because some of the performances, particularly the vocals provided by Laura Darton as the heavily pregnant Sue and Anna Campkin as Ray’s lovelorn girlfriend Donna – whose obvious talent is massively underused in the role, it should be said – really stand out.

All-in-all, Dreamboats and Miniskirts is a “safe show” set in aperiod that was felt as far from being so and with a story that it so lacklustre the music, rather than a combination of story and music, really does save the day.

Dreamboats and Miniskirts
Liverpool Empire Theatre
August 24 – August 29
Director: Bill Kenwright & Keith Strachan
Choreography: Carole Todd
Cast Includes: Alex Beaumont, Laura Darton, David Luke, Elizabeth Carter, Alistair Hill, Will Tierney, Alan Howell
Running Time: 2 hours
PR Rating: ***