JACKIE – The Musical
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 16th March, 2016
Yet another jukebox musical is doing the rounds but fear not, this is one of the better ones. Jackie is fifty-four and facing divorce from her husband of twenty years. While sorting through the attic she comes across a stash of her old Jackie magazines. The find triggers the appearance of her younger self as a sort of adviser and confidante, as Jackie navigates her way through the dating scene, deals with her teenage son and tries to come to terms with her new status in life.
Cue the songs and plenty of them. Pop hits from the 70s mainly and a real nostalgia fest. Dancing on a Saturday Night, Tiger Feet, Puppy Love…
As Jackie, Janet Dibley, although not the strongest singer, is a likeable leading lady, supported by Daisy Steere as the incarnation of her younger self. The latter delivers a belting rendition of I Love To Love. Providing a lot of the laughs is Lori Haley Fox as Jackie’s best friend Jill. Michael Hamway is appealing as son David; his performance includes a rousing version of 20th Century Boy that gets people dancing in the aisles. Seriously. Graham Bickley and Nicholas Bailey are the men in Jackie’s life, husband John and new boyfriend Max respectively. Bickley is a better at singing than he is at delivering the sometimes duff dialogue, while Bailey is suitably attractive and passionate. His Love Is In The Air is a highlight. You think you know where all this is going as Max’s failings come to light and the incompatibility of John and his fiancée becomes apparent. But in a show about a magazine that empowered young girls (to an extent), there is a final card to play.
The score feels cobbled together by a shoehorn but it turns out it doesn’t matter. The marvellous live band, the choreography, and the ensemble carry us through the banalities of the plot and the sometimes unconvincing dialogue. The ensemble exudes energy, carrying off Arlene Phillips’s vintage choreography with flair (and in flares). The colourful costumes and vibrant, versatile set (both designed by Tim Shortall) evoke the bygone era, a more innocent age. I would rethink the speech balloons the cast carry on a couple of times: the lettering is too small on some of them for us to enjoy the captions.
Young Jackie marvels at laptops, the internet and mobile phones but it turns out her older self is still very much preoccupied with the same concerns (lack of confidence, what do boys want?) thirty years down the line.
It all adds up to a lot of fun. Lightweight and frothy, this show may have its issues but it proves ultimately irresistible and rather sweet.