As the programme for Jackie the Musical says, if you were a teenage girl in the 1970s Thursday was the biggest day of the week – the day Top of the Pops hit the screens and the magazine Jackie hit the shelves.
Profiling the heartthrob pop stars of the era and offering beauty, fashion and romance tips, by the mid 70s it was selling more than 600,000 copies a week. Taking its inspiration from the iconic magazine, Jackie the Musical ingeniously combines a slice of 70s nostalgia with a modern story of love in middle age.
Protagonist Jackie (Janet Dibley) is 54 and in the process of moving house with her teenage son following a split from her husband when she happens across a box full of her old magazines.
As she tries to discover new love her naive, frilly-dress clad younger self (Daisy Steere) returns to advise her. The two have great chemistry on stage with some lovely comedic interchanges cleverly highlighting the difference life has made to Jackie’s perspective.
Dibley is a natural as the present day Jackie; it’s all rather effortless for her but authentic and hilarious for the audience. There’s excellent comedy support in the form of her young-at-heart best friend Jill (Lori Haley Fox) and the bartender at their favourite bar, Frankie (Bob Harms), who steals the show with renditions of classics like Crazy Horses and Puppy Love.
Elsewhere Graham Bickley shines as Jackie’s ex John and Tricia Adele-Turner is hilarious as his needy new squeeze, Gemma (the horse). Michael Hamway is superb as Jackie’s teenage son David, bringing the house down with his high-octane version of 20th Century Boy. While Nicholas Bailey puts in a star turn as Jackie’s new love interest Max.
The action has a wonderful pace to it with snappy dialogue segueing seamlessly into a series of visually stunning and tightly choreographed song and dance routines. A gifted dance ensemble is central to the action, and Anthony Starr, as its main male member, is magnificent throughout.
The ingeniously easy to manoeuvre set is spectacularly 70s, equipped with raised platform, disco balls and colour everywhere. Scene changes are done by members of the cast but it's barely noticeable because it's all choreographed into the routine. There are some very clever nods to the magazine too, like the use of speech and thought bubbles during some scenes and a number of delightful interludes from agony aunts Cathy and Claire (Laura Mullowney and Hayley-Jo Whitney).
This is musical theatre at its very best, and a love for 70s music is really not necessary to enjoy this show. You'll know the songs because they're classics, but this isn't some shameless trudge through hits of the decade to get the 50 and 60somethings in, there's a story with real merit here, and acting performances to match.
It’s a triumphant slice of the 70s which taps into an enduring love for the music of the decade and weaves it with great success into a new story.
Leave your troubles at the door and sit back and enjoy this beautifully put together piece of musical theatre.
Jackie the Musical plays at New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday.
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