Save the Last Dance for Me - Blackpool Grand Theatre
Perhaps it’s because the songs were just so darned good or that the original singers were so distinctive but taking what are basically the greatest hits of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and injecting them into a girl meets boy early 1960s love story was always going to be a gamble.
Obviously the formula is familiar, the writers (Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran), the directors (Bill Kenwright and Keith Strachan) and the producers (Bill Kenwright again and Laurie Mansfield) are pretty much the same team behind the eventually successful Dreamboats and Petticoats.
So take a clutch of songs designed to last three minutes but which have lasted several decades, create a story which makes their lyrics far more significant than they were ever designed to be and inject that feelgood factor and, on paper at least, you can’t go wrong.
But because the formula has proved so successful before then any subsequent production has to swim harder or sink faster and that means making material originated by The Drifters, The Coasters, Elvis Presley, Dion and the Belmonts, The Exciters, The Cascades and others as enervating as it did first time around.
Unfortunately despite a hard working cast of 14 and a talented five piece band, too often the vocal delivery of these pop gems seems sanitised rather than raw while the dialogue frequently sags under the weight of a social conscience attempting to cross the racial barriers of the early 1960s.
Downtown Luton, uptown Lowestoft, teenage English girls and savvy American air force recruits – the kernel is there but a lot more work needs doing to give the whole production the lively atmosphere of the predictable megamix finale.