Bristol Hippodrome

Save The Last Dance For Me July 2013

I have been singing (aloud!) Sweets For My Sweets all week since seeing Save The Last Dance For Me at the Bristol Hippodrome on Monday evening.

An ecstatic first night audience rocked the aisles as the saccharine-coated show set in the early 60s played out its slightly weak storyline linking music from several decades.

But what the seaside summer holiday yarn lacked in meaningful dialogue was more than made up by the talented cast who belted out hit singles galore.

Set in Lowerstoft, Suffolk and a fictitious nearby US military (Lakenheath, methinks) base it tells the time immemorial tale of girl meets boy only in this case with the added complication of the colour bar.

Remember this was in a time when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for fighting apartheid and putting a man on the moon or electing a black president was thought to be pie-in-the-sky.

This post World War 2 musical romped through the hit parade with 30 top 10 classics including And Then He Kissed Me to Can’t Get Used To Losing You from the 60s and 70s.

For those of a certain age the kitsch kitchen set with its yellow Formica table top and teenage girls wearing nylon buttoned overalls evoked more nauseating than nostalgic memories of a fashion faux pas with beehive hairstyles and kiss curls.

I loved the portrayal of mum and dad who could have dropped in straight from television programme George and Mildred and the comic Bedfordshire accents which were more Eth from The Glums than the Luton airport drawl of Lorraine Chase in the Campari advert.

For me with a Flight Sergeant father having been stationed at nearby RAF Mildenhall alongside Yankie soldiers its authenticity was well portrayed.

Popcorn, dollar bills, Elvis and hand jives – what an era.

Musically the show is first class – with some amazing soloists and barber shop harmonies but the storyline is jagged.

Written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (Goodnight Sweetheart, Birds of a Feather, Shine on Harvey Moon), it features the unmistakable music of Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman.

It takes you on a feel-good journey following two teenage sisters Marie (Elizabeth Carter, a lovely Reece Witherspoon lookalike) and Jennifer (Verity Jones) who embark on an adventurous caravan holiday for the first time without mum and dad.

Full of freedom and high spirits they meet a handsome young US airman called Curtis (Kieran McGinn) and his sidekick Milton (Lee Honey-Jones) out on the pull and get invited to a base dance.

But young love and holiday romance is never as simple as it sounds and the sisters soon realise that while the world around them is still watching itself in black and white, life and love can be much more colourful.

The second half was more energetic and this 16-strong cast certainly deserved its many curtain calls.

Save The Dance For Me runs until Saturday, July 13.Tickets cost £10-£35 for evening performances at 7.30pm and matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm.

Carol Deacon