While nowadays we dream of and save up for an exotic holiday on an island as far away as possible, back in the sixties a trip to Butlins, or Lowestoft in the case of sisters Jennifer (Verity Jones) and Marie (Elizabeth Carter), was a hugely popular choice. Save the Last Dance for Me, written by the same duo who brought us Dreamboats and Petticoats, is a simple but fairly charming jukebox musical in which two young girls go on holiday alone together, and find themselves in the company of a few members of the US Air Force. Some of the guys have strictly honourable intentions towards the holiday goers, others not so much. While older sister Jennifer enjoys all of the attention, shy and uncertain Marie only has eyes for the chivalrous Curtis (Kieran McGinn).
A straightforward, romantic comedy like this allows the musical hits such as Viva Las Vegas and Please Mr Postman to shine through, and judging from the enthusiastic clapping and singing along by the audience, it is obviously this element of the show that attracted them to the theatre in the first place. You certainly will not be disappointed if you’re one of those people because the live band and vocal quality, especially from Carter and Jay Perry, who plays the Sergeant known as Rufus, have all the class and energy that will make you want to jump up and shimmy. It is also apparent that the musicians are having a good time, which does make a difference to the feel of the show overall especially when they are in plain sight.
The performing while not singing takes a bit of a backseat role; the acting is at times a bit wooden, and aside from McGinn the American accents could do with some fine tuning. The two lead lovers are sweet together, but once or twice it goes slightly overboard and becomes a bit too cutesy. The comedy is a healthy mixture of cheese and tongue in cheek, some jokes arefunny and some aren’t, but again the script is of lesser importance than the musical performances, and the story is mainly there to link the hits together. The choreography is lacking a bit of sparkle and ingenuity but it is fun to watch. The standout dancer isPerry, ironically so as his character comes across as quite stern; his fluidity and clear cut moves are in a league of their own;l it is hard to take your eyes off him.
A couple of the sets let this show down, with the exception of the main bar with its jazzy lights and feel good atmosphere. The caravan backdrop especially is a bit like something cut from the back of a cereal box; it serves its purpose but it leaves the stage a bit bare and uninteresting.
Save the Last Dance for Me has all the ingredients of a worthwhile night out. It is lacking that extra special something, but I defy anyone to leave the theatre without feeling like their spirits have been lifted.