Jackie the Musical at Manchester’s Opera House: Review

The 70s was a time of flares, free love and the era which gave birth to disco classics. It was also the decade where teenage girls rushed out every week to buy a magazine called Jackie – the antidote to angst, boy problems and basically the bible to see you through to adulthood.

Photo by Pamela Raith


Photo by Pamela Raith

Jackie the Musical pays tribute to those yesteryears as it tells the story of 50 something divorcee ‘Jackie’ who stumbles over a stash of her old mags as she packs to move house. Flicking through the pages she relives her youth and conjures up an apparition of her younger self as she tries to find the answers to where her life went wrong.

Mike James’ uncomplicated script has just the right amount of gags for this relatively new juke box musical and uses the plot to cue in the songs in a Mama Mia-esq way. Over the running time of two hours it manages to deliver an incredibly fun, feel good show jam-packed with memorable hits from the 70s including Puppy Love, Crazy Horses and Hold Me Close.

Janet Dibley, better known for her role in 80s sitcom The Two of Us, takes on the lead role of Jackie with a dry wit and a great stage presence. You can’t help but sympathise with her as she struggles to cope with her son David’s (Mark Hamway) dismissal of college, ex-husband John’s (Graham Bickley) mid-life crisis and her lack of a love life.

Hamway puts in an impressive performance as David, complete with a hugely energetic rendition of Marc Bolan’s 20th Century Boy and there’s some sweet vocals to be heard from Daisy Steere who is the epitome of innocence as the young Jackie.

Whilst it’s not the kind of musical that will win Tony awards or Oliviers it does win over the hearts of the predominately female audience. The ‘women of a certain age’ are all ‘Jackies’ in their own unique way, loving every minute of the nostalgic show and heartily turning it into a sing-along production.

There’s also some lively dance routines expertly put together by choreographer Arlene Phillips, the director of the original 70s dance troupe Hot Gossip. Phillips puts in hip-swinging and finger-clicking moves a plenty providing just enough camp and cheese to lovingly make fun of the heady days of disco. Whilst designer Jim Shortall gives a nod to the well-loved Jackie magazine photo-story pages creating a quirky set design featuring speech bubbles that light up.

A great night out for the girls or for some ‘mother-daughter’ bonding, Jackie the Musical is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face and have you up dancing on your feet at the encore!

Runs at Manchester’s Opera House until 21st May



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