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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
Peggy Sue Got Married - the Musical

by Lizzie Loveridge
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Who put the whores before Descartes?  
--- Richard (on making scientific study a priority rather than dating)
Peggy Sue Got Married
Andrew Kennedy as Charlie, Ruthie Henshall as Peggy Sue, and cast
London has a need for vibrant, new musicals and I think the producers have got it right with Peggy Sue Got Married. In Ruthie Henshall they have an experienced actress with a beautiful voice, who has played the big roles from Les Miserables to Chicago. This is a simpler affair than the elaborately technologically staged musicals of the Seventies and Eighties but with better choreography and more fun! There is a fascinating article in the programme called "How Peggy Sue Got Married, Filmed and Made into a Musical" from Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner which discloses that the authors had thought of making the musical before their own 1986 film and why this project has taken 16 years to fruition.

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.

Peggy Sue Got Married
Book by Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Jerry Leichtling
Directed by Kelly Robinson

Starring: Ruthie Henshall
With: Sara Weymouth, Gerard Bentall, Verity Bentham, Dawn Buckland, Chris Crompton, Samuel James, Melanie Marcus, Dean Maynard, Melitsa Nicola, Stuart Nurse, Paul Peacock, Richard Peakman, Wayne Perrey, Andrew Playfoot, Neil Reynolds, Tanya Robb, Vicki Simon, Donna Steele, Scarlett Strallen, Sam Strasfeld, Lucy Moorby, Pippa Gebette, Shirley Hafey, Gavin Lee, Andrew Kennedy, Terence Hillyer, Tim Howar, Ian Waller, Francesca Newitt.
Design: Ruari Murchison
Lighting Design: Mark Jonathan
Sound: Rick Clarke
Musical Arrangements: Gary Hind
Choreographer: Sergio Trujillo
Running time: Two hours thirty minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7379 3345
Booking to 2nd March 2002
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on the 24th August 2001 performance at the Olivier Theatre, Royal National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1

2001 cd-rom deluxe

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