Jackie (Janet Dibley) is a woman of a certain age who is having a mid-life crisis as she goes through a divorce to her long time husband John (Graham Bickley), deals with her 19 year old son David (Michael Hamway), gets ready to move out of the family home, and via the pages of her collection of old Jackie comics encounters her younger 1970s self (Daisy Steere).
As we follow Jackie on her mid-life crisis we also meet some of the people in her life – Max (Nicholas Bailey), Gemma (Tricia Adele-Turner), Jill (Lori Haley Fox) and Frankie (Bob Harms) who all bring Jackie’s world to life and into sharper focus.
As you would expect from the title of the show and the subject matter, Jackie is a show that, judging from the audience tonight, means that something a bit extra to many of the women in the audience of an age with Jackie as they emphasise closely with her on many levels and have maybe had similar life experiences.
If you are not familiar with it, Jackie was a weekly comic published originally in the 1960s by Dundee based publishing giant DC Thomson (this show is produced in association with them) that really reached its peak of popularity in the early to mid 1970s with its mixture of pop stars, fashion, beauty and lifestyle advice. If you were a teenage girl in the early 1970s, the chances were high that you read Jackie comic.
As well as the dramatic story of Jackie’s past and present life, we also have the sounds and fashions of the period brought wonderfully to life by a live band as we re-live with Jackie the sounds of ‘70s chart toppers such as T-Rex, Mud, Barbara Streisand & Donna Summer, David Essex, David Cassidy to name but a few. The songs though are not just a musical backdrop, they are part of the story and dialogue as they are skillfully used at the appropriate moments in time. If you are old enough (like me) you will recognise most of these songs from the first few musical bars, and there are some great songs in this show – particularly one of my favourites “What Becomes of The Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin...originally a hit in 1966 but re-released in 1974. Written by three of the best song-writers of the period, the wonderful lyrics of this song are just perfect for this show. There is also a great use of “20th Century Boy” by T-Rex here.
Jackie is a great fun show with a good set that is set against the pages of the comic itself as a backdrop and at various points word balloons bring the comic itself to life. The live band have the sound and the dancers (choreographed by Arlene Phillips) with careful attention to period styling by the show’s design team look the part. Jackie though, like all good shows, works on two levels. You could easily strip the music and dance numbers away here and still have a good dramatic story. Janet and Daisy are both outstanding as the older and younger Jackie and there is wonderful play on that old “What would you say to your younger self given the chance” question. Older Jackie trying to explain laptop computers, mobile phones and online social media to her younger self is just such a clever touch.
Jackie the Musical is just a feel good show that entertains its audience and lets them leave the theatre with that rare “feel good” factor. The show is also so well done that it is a show for anyone of any age. You do not have to be old enough to remember this period the first time round as it is so skillfully done that this is a bit of an idealistic 1970s – the sort of 1970s that anyone who was not there imagines it was like and anyone who was there maybe wishes that it was like.
A great show with high production standards, a great cast, great music and I hope this show goes from strength to strength and bigger and bigger stages and audiences without losing the intimacy of the characters and empathy that so many members of the audience obviously feel with them.
Review by Tom King