Set in the early 60s, this new musical centres on a love story between an impressionable teenager from Luton and a black US engineer stationed on an airforce base just outside the holiday resort of Lowestoft. With a book by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who collaborated to bring Dreamboats and Petticoats to the stage, this is a similar concoction using the music of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman.
A scene from Save The Last Dance For Me at the Churchill, Bromley Photo: Keith Pattison
Marks and Gran’s plot is surprisingly lacking in emotional intensity, especially as much of the story deals with such contentious issues as race and sex. There are also legions of musical numbers, popping up incessantly and stalling any discernible narrative flow.
Jason Denton as Curtis and Megan Jones as Marie are strong vocalists, bringing life to some of the great ballads, but sadly there is a lack of chemistry between them to play convincing lovers. AJ Dean as fellow engineer Milton proves himself to be an accomplished and self assured performer, with a maturity that belies his looks, but the real discovery of the evening is Hannah Frederick as Jennifer. Frederick is perfect as the blowsy older sister, providing a much needed lighter edge to a story that slowly begins to get weighed down in its own saccharine sentimentality.
Thankfully, the young cast excel at this style of theatrical endeavour, rattling off familiar classics such as Seven Day Weekend, Viva Las Vegas, Sweets For My Sweet and the inevitable title number with talent and enthusiasm.
Ultimately, this is a jukebox musical where the songs are the stars and directors Bill Kenwright and Keith Strachan ensure they are treated with the respect they deserve.