Jackie the Musical

April 14, 2016 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆    Sensational

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.

Daisy Steere as Young Jackie. Pamela Raith Photography

Daisy Steere as Young Jackie. Pamela Raith Photography

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.

unrequited love

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.

Cathy and Claire. Pamela Raith Photography

Cathy and Claire. Pamela Raith Photography

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.

neediness

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.

The ensemble. Photo Pamela Raith Photography

The ensemble. Photo Pamela Raith Photography

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
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
April 19 – 23 Blackpool
Grand Theatre
01253 290 190 Book online
April 26 – 30 Perth
Concert Hall
01738 621031 Book online
May 10 – 14 High Wycombe
Wycombe Swan
01494 512000 Book online
May 17 – 21 Manchester
Opera House
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
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649 Book online
June 7 – 11 Wimbledon
New Wimbledon Theatre
0844 871 7646 Book online
June 14 – 18 Dartford
Orchard Theatre
01322 220000 Book online
June 21 – 25 Malvern
Festival Theatre
01684 892277 Book online
June 28 – July 2 Liverpool
Empire
08448 713 017 Book online
July 5 – 9 Sunderland
Sunderland Empire
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
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online

ENDS

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