Right from the outset, I must point out that I never bought a single copy of Jackie; however my sister did and it is possible that I may, on occasions, have flicked through the pages—purely to see if there were any pictures of Debbie Harry….
Or (just maybe) to glance through the letters to Cathy and Claire to discover if anyone was having less success with the opposite sex than I was....
No one was.
My early teenage magazines of choice were the likes of Look In, Shoot and Smash Hits–until the latter years of the 70s, when I discovered “punk”… and NME and Sounds duly became compulsory reading material. It was therefore with some slight trepidation that I travelled north up the A19 with Elaine for last night’s performance of Jackie: the Musical at the Sunderland Empire.
No apprehension in the passenger seat though; Elaine’s musical taste encompasses the Osmonds, Bay City Rollers, Davids Essex and Cassidy et al, and I readily conceded there was more chance of hearing a rendition of Shang-a-Lang, than Anarchy in the UK….
The musical features a fifty-something Jackie (Janet Dibley) battle-hardened by the realities of adult life, alongside her teenage self (Daisy Steere), still bursting with naïve (yet totally charming) idealism and optimism.
The contrast between the gadget-filled modern world we take for granted and the comparative innocence of the generation in which most of the audience would have grown up was wonderfully realised by Daisy and Janet: the two Jackies. One wide-eyed, full of life, hoping for love and “happy ever after”; the other preparing to move house, dreams shattered with her husband of twenty years having departed for a younger model, leaving behind a son, two decades of memories… and a violin.
Framed around the magazine of the same name, the story basically explored Jackie’s relationships.
With her ex-husband John (Graham Bickley… sounds familiar; wasn’t he in Bread…? Indeed he was: Joey Boswell mark II no less), a prospective new man in her life (Max, played by Nicholas Bailey, aka the second most famous doctor from Albert Square), her best friend Jill (Lori Haley Fox), her son David (Michael Hamway), but most of all with her younger self.
The show is full of humour; much surrounding specific moments from times gone by with which so many of those in the audience could clearly identify; long-forgotten memories or feelings recalled courtesy of not only a wonderful script but also a joyous barrage of song and dance.
I am no expert in the performing arts and in no real position to offer any valid critique of those whose individual and collective talent simply lit up the stage, but in a production where the main focus is rightly on the leading ladies (Jackie Snr and Jnr, and Jill), it is two of the male characters that arguably steal the show… fair enough, some of the show.
Michael Hamway as Jackie’s son David is fantastic. He possesses a great voice and the moves he performed during the T Rex song 20th Century Boy were nothing short of spectacular. Michael gives a fine and thoughtful portrayal of a love-struck young man desperate to find his own way in the world, but possessing a rare maturity that enables him to see beyond his own dreams and actually heed his mother’s advice.
The revelation of the love interest is brilliant by the way….
And secondly there is Frankie the barman, played by Bob Harms. Striking, almost menacing in appearance, Frankie is gloriously over-the-top; and although the character is not particularly central to the plot, Bob’s performance was one of the highlights of the whole evening.
By the end of the show, most of the audience were on their feet. They had laughed, they sung, they had danced; and there was a very definite connection between those on stage and those in the auditorium. The cast were obviously enjoying themselves every bit as much as those watching; it was an infectious combination and I was almost disappointed when the party came to an end.
I now hold up my hand and admit my trepidation was misplaced. I might prefer the Sex Pistols to Tina Charles, or Stiff Little Fingers to John Paul Young, but if you grew up during the 1970s (and my birth certificate suggests I must have), then go and watch Jackie: The Musical. I dare you not to love it….