King’s Theatre: Tue 12 – Sat 16 2016
Review by Thom Dibdin
Pacy and clever, Jackie the Musical at the King’s all week is bags of fun to watch as it brings the celebrated teen magazine to the stage.
The show is a canny combination of teen advice and teenage pop, to which it gives a modern setting – while harking back to an era and age when life was a lot more simple.
After one Prosecco too many down Frankie’s wine bar, 50-something not-quite-divorcee Jackie is cleaning out the attic when she stumbles across a box packed with her old copies of the Jackie.
And before you can say Donny Osmond, she’s chatting away with her teenage self, circa 1972 – all naive optimism and self-righteous certainty thanks to regular doses of worldly wisdom from agony aunts Cathy and Claire.
Older Jackie has got plenty to moan about, too. What with the ex who left her for a younger woman, her best pal Jill who won’t stop trying to get her hooked up again, and her son Dave who wants to hang around writing dire songs instead of going to college.
To be honest, this is the kind of magpie thrust that plenty of jukebox musicals have taken before. But where Jackie steals the march over its rivals is that its subject matter – the columns of the Jackie – are the stuff of which bubble-gum pop is made.
And although it is hideously corny, it is also very clever to have 19 year-old Dave writing songs about unrequited love and bursting into Love Hurts, as if it was the first time anyone had such emotions. Even though he’s found – and quotes from – the pearls of agony aunt wisdom dispensed by Cathy and Claire.
Janet Dibley leads it all off with great heart as Jackie. The emotional turmoil she is put through is pretty standard fare, but Dibley makes it special by ensuring that there is a realistic moral complexity to her character.
Dibley brings a strong emotional resonance to her numbers, without being the best singer or dancer in the 21-strong cast. Daisy Steere as the Young Jackie provides a great foil for her – pouring surprisingly prurient cold water on her older-self’s hot passions.
Jackie’s relationship with Jill is nicely drawn, too, with Lori Haley Fox just the right side of needling without over-egging her American roots. In fact, subtlety in such matters seems to be director Anna Linstrum’s forte: there is much which a lesser director would overdo, but which Linstrum uses lightly to bring depth to the whole production.
The two male love-interests are pretty basic, never really getting much beyond the necessary two dimensions. Which is something of the point: while the Jackie’s subjects were love and how to attract the opposite sex, what it was really about was the girls who read it. It reflected their own reality when they were at an age that they thought their parents had stopped doing so.
Graham Bickley plays the ex, John, with a sense of neediness and growing frustration with his new young love, Gemma (Tricia Adele-Turner who has the most horsey laugh ever). Nicholas Bailey has enough of the fervent, puppy-eyed honesty about him to convince as new love, Max.
There’s a lot more fun to be had with the two less peripheral men in the show who bring some spontaneity to it all. It helps no end, of course, that they are both decidedly unavailable.
Michael Hamway is a real discovery as Jackie’s 19 year-old son, Dave. He’s the right side of hunky as a performer, leaping about the stage with a dancer’s bravado. Most importantly, he’s believably gauche without going too far. And his version of 20th Century Boy could well be worth the cost of the ticket alone.
Slightly longer in the tooth, Bob Harms is utterly brilliant as Frankie, the wine-bar owner. His timing is great on the comedy moments as a sounding board to the main event. But he has several moments to shine on the musical front. His Crazy Horses makes sure the show sets off with a high-point.
But it is Harms’ take on Puppy Love that really sets the show alight. It is a genius rehabilitation of Donny Osmond’s original that reframes it in a thoroughly post-modern, 21st century setting.
It helps that the show is choreographed by Arlene Phillips. She might have become famous in recent years for her stint on Strictly, but she made an even stronger mark in the 1970s as the choreographer behind dance troupe Hot Gossip.
Just one cheesy coincidence too many for the full five stars, this is a show which plays straight to its demographic. With 20 early seventies hits, 21 on stage in the company and a solidly rockin’ five-piece backing band, it knows their number and it is ready for action. Get it on!
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with one interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.
Tuesday 12 – Saturday 16 April 2016
Daily: 7.30pm; Matinees Wed and Sat: 2.30pm.
Details and tickets from: http://www.edtheatres.com/jackie
|Jackie The Musical on tour 2016:|
|April 12 – 16||Edinburgh
|0131 529 6000||Book online|
|April 19 – 23||Blackpool
|01253 290 190||Book online|
|April 26 – 30||Perth
|01738 621031||Book online|
|May 10 – 14||High Wycombe
|01494 512000||Book online|
|May 17 – 21||Manchester
|0844 871 3018||Book online|
|May 24 – 28||Birmingham
The New Alexandra Theatre
|0844 871 3011||Book online|
|May 31 – June 4||Stoke-on-Trent
|0844 871 7649||Book online|
|June 7 – 11||Wimbledon
New Wimbledon Theatre
|0844 871 7646||Book online|
|June 14 – 18||Dartford
|01322 220000||Book online|
|June 21 – 25||Malvern
|01684 892277||Book online|
|June 28 – July 2||Liverpool
|08448 713 017||Book online|
|July 5 – 9||Sunderland
|0844 871 3022||Book online|
|July 12 – 16||Inverness
Eden Court Theatre
|01463 234 234||Book online|
|July 19 – 23||Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
|01224 641122||Book online|
|July 26 – 30||Glasgow
|0844 871 7648||Book online|