5-10 September 2016
Reviewed by Liz Hawarth
This is my first review for What’s Good To Do and I couldn’t have had a better show to get me started! Being a teenager myself in the mid-60s when this show was set, I was quickly transported back to those happy times by the music, the costumes and the boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-gets-girl-back-again theme of this fantastic show.
Set mainly around a US Airforce base in Lowestoft in the summer of 1963, the show tells the story of teenage sisters, Jennifer and Marie, escaping their over-protective parents back in Luton to embark on a week’s holiday in a caravan in Lowestoft. Both are looking for romance and excitement, but 17-year-old Marie, still a schoolgirl, is especially starry-eyed about the possibility of having her very first taste of love. Big sister Jennifer, more worldly-wise and experienced and conscious of her role in loco parentis, advises Marie to be careful and not to take holiday romance too seriously as it almost always fades away with the suntan at the end of the holiday. But both girls forget all caution when a good-looking American soldier whisks them off to the local USAF base where the music is thrilling, the GI’s are all handsome and exotic-seeming, and Coca-Cola and hot-dogs are on the menu. All is going well until Marie catches the eye of Curtis, one of the singers with the band, and thus begins a rollercoaster romance with all the laughter and tears you expect, told through the words of a wonderful set of juke-box favourites of the times. Needless to say, there is a happy ending!
Looking through the programme before the show started, I realised that not one of the cast members was familiar to me, and it was a good guess that all of them were born very much later than the times in which the show was set so I wondered how well they would get into the characters they were playing. However, from the very start, their obvious talents, enthusiasm and energy quickly overcame my misgivings, and from then on I was hooked and loved every minute of it! The cast all appeared to have multiple skills – singing, dancing, playing in the band – and I loved the saxophones played by ‘Alma’ (Rachel Nottingham) and ‘Ephraim’ (Kieran Kuypers) who also regularly morphed into ‘Mildred’ and ‘Cyril’, parents of Jennifer and Marie. All the songs, whether rock ’n’ roll or ballads, were delivered with great expression and power by the cast, with especially strong performances from Lola Saunders as Jennifer, Wayne Robinson as Curtis, Antony Costa as Milton and Sackie Osakonor as Rufus. Elizabeth Carter (Marie) had a sweet and clear voice for songs like ‘Why Must I Be a Teenager in Love?’ but was not quite so strong on the big belters. However, she made up for that by her excellent portrayal of a young girl taking her first faltering steps into real life and real love. There were plenty of comic moments throughout the show, and pretty much everyone had their chance under the spotlight, with special mentions for ‘Mr Whoopsy’ the ice-cream man (aka Carlo) played by Alan Howell with an over-the-top Brummy accent, who won Jennifer’s heart (and incidentally had a great singing voice which came to the fore in ‘Hushabye’) and Anna Campkin who was transformed from hard-talking ‘Della’ into goodtime girl ‘Doris from Leeds’ who was out for a good time no matter what. I was particularly impressed by the a cappella songs performed by the whole cast, with their fantastic rendition of ‘Hushabye’ topping the list. I would happily watch the whole show again any time, and if you are feeling a bit down it will certainly get you tapping your feet and singing along again in no time. The audience were up on their feet, clapping and singing along and yes, dancing in the aisles, as the finale got into full swing.
As for the venue, I have been to shows at the Princess Theatre many times over the past 16 years and always found it a good experience. Situated right on the beautiful seafront at Torquay with lovely views across the harbour and marina from ‘Breezes’ restaurant, it is always packed with people and last night was no exception with a pretty full house as far as I could see. My partner and I had excellent seats 6 rows from the stage in the stalls and the seats were comfortable with plenty of leg-room. We enjoyed our interval drinks from the bar, where the girls were very welcoming and helpful. Theatre staff were also helpful, toilet facilities were clean and tidy, and the whole experience was very good and hassle-free. Parking is easily available in car parks very close by and in the road outside.
As the publicity material says, this show was most definitely a ‘nostalgic, feel-good journey’, taking us back to a time that was very close to our hearts with great performances, fantastic music and a heart-warming trip down memory lane. All in all, a great experience – as Janice would have said on Juke Box Jury back in the 60s, ‘I’ll give it foive!’
Tickets cost from £17.90 to £39.90 (plus £4 transaction fee).
Save The Last Dance For Me is at the Princess Theatre in Torquay until 10 September 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3023.
Princess Theatre, Torbay Road, Torquay, TQ2 5EZ | 0844 871 3023