Theatre review: Jackie the Musical, Broughty Ferry

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JAM, jute, journalism; and now a jukebox musical based on one of Dundee’s iconic journalistic products.

Gardyne Theatre

***

Jackie magazine was launched in 1964, just as a new wave of home-grown pop music began to transform British youth culture for ever, and survived until 1993. Writer Mike James’s new show, Jackie The Musical – sponsored by Dundee’s Gardyne Theatre and Jackie’s publisher DC Thomson – looks back at the magazine’s 1970s heyday, when the show’s heroine Jackie, now in her 50s, was a teenage schoolgirl, avid not only for the magazine’s celebrity posters and picture-stories, but for advice on everything from kissing to homework offered by legendary agony aunts Cathy and Claire.

There’s nothing subtle or surprising about the approach adopted by James, with musical director Ben Goddard and director Geinor Styles. In a show that deftly brings together the genres of tribute musical and girls’-night-out show, James’s script shows us middle-aged Jackie trying to survive divorce with the help of her Jackie-reading younger self, full of authentic 1970s love tips; while the band – formed by male cast members – leads the company through a sure-fire playlist of Seventies hits.

If the storyline is pure cliche, though, Maggie Rawlinson’s choreography is terrific – full of classic Pan’s People moves – and James’s script is witty and thoroughly theatrical. Karen Ascoe, as middle-aged Jackie, gives a delightful performance, heartfelt, elegant and funny so that the show becomes irresistible; not because it tells us anything we don’t know about the perils of middle-aged love, but because it mines a rich seam of female popular culture neglected for too long, and does it with respect and love.