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A CurtainUp London Review
Peggy Sue Got Married - the Musical
by Lizzie Loveridge
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The film of Peggy Sue Got Married which was directed by Francis Coppola, starred Kathleen Turner and featured early performances from actors who are now "big names"&Nicholas Cage (with big blonde hair and a higher voice), with Jim Carrey, Helen Hunt and Joan Allen in smaller roles. I found that the musical is true to the film's essence. There are obvious comparisons to be made with Grease, as both are set in the same era but Peggy Sue doesn't draw music solely from the popular music of 1960 but features songs ranging from crooning to The Drifters to heavy metal to Celine Dion to boy bands.
The story too is not as silly or as simple as some musicals. Peggy Sue (Ruthie Henshall) is 42 and reassessing her life in the light of an impending divorce caused by her husband, Charlie's (Andrew Kennedy) infidelity. She goes to a 25 year High School reunion and finds herself travelling back to 1960 when she was 17, but with the memories and experience of a mature woman. The question is what would any of us do differently if we were given the opportunity to return to our youth. The 17 year old Peggy Sue gets drunk, tells her parents how much she appreciates them and experiments sexually with leather clad, beatnik poet, motor cycle riding James Dean look-alike, Michael Fitzsimmons (Tim Howar). She is also able to tell Richard the bullied school geek (Gavin Lee) that he will be very successful in technology and have a beautiful wife. There is also interest in the attitude towards sexual relationships in the placing of a post sexual revolution woman back in the days before the pill.
There's much to like in the music. Ruthie impresses almost immediately with her first belter, "This Time Around" As she runs off with her beatnik -- dubbed by her husband Charlie as "the treble without a cause" -- the first act concludes with "Two Kinds of Fire, " a block busting rock duet with Michael. With Charliein a boy band, there are several opportunities for boy band type harmonies and Andrew Kennedy's (who looks like Paul Anka) big number is "Crown of Love". A scene set in the Bongo Club gives us "Bongo Beat" with some funky shrug dancing and a totally different mood from the mostly high school set ensemble dance scenes with their 1950s cut out cars. The lyrics are very clever in places. In the science lab, Richard the scientist sings "When You Get a Girl Alone" with an amazing scientific vocabulary and witty paranomasia.
There are many changes of scene, but without going overboard. I liked the way Peggy Sue time travels backwards from 1985 to 1960 with the sound archive reminding us of the intervening years. The Shaftesbury Theatre is accoustically excellent and although the theatre itself is a little off the beaten track I think Peggy Sue Got Married could well be there for a long stay.