REVIEW: JACKIE THE MUSICAL (Empire Theatre, Sunderland)


Jackie the Musical is a wonderfully nostalgic journey into the gentler, more innocent times of the 1970’s. When I used to read my sisters copy of Jackie on a Thursday before she came home from school.

This Jackie is 54, mother of a 19 year old David who wants to give up education to play music. She is going through a divorce and moving house because husband of 20 years, John, ran off with Gemma. Best friend Jill is encouraging Jackie to move on and find someone else. Nights are spent in Frankies eating sticky toffee pudding and drinking prosecco.

After a prosecco filled evening, Jackie starts to sort boxes from the attic and discovers her collection of Jackie magazine, resulting in her teenage self manifesting in her life.

Enter blind date Max and the story can begin, with lots of wonderful 70’s songs to move the story along and some brilliant comedy moments. Eventually Jackie realises the valuable lessons she learnt in her youth made her into the one person in control of her life – herself.

Young Jackie (Daisy Steere), who manages to bring a sense of realness to an unreal character, full of innocence and enthusiasm. Whilst Janet Dibley’s older Jackie is more cynical, still full of hurt, not knowing where life is going. Other strong female comic performances come from Gemma (Tricia Adele-Turner) and Jill (Lori Haley Fox), both fabulous and both under used.

The males of the show bring up the rear, Graham Bickley (John), Nicholas Bailey (Max) Sam O’Halon (Keith) and Michael Hamway (David). But for me, star of the show was Bob Harms as Frankie the bartender – what a performance! What a voice!

The live band on stage, lead by Dan de Cruz, play us on an exquisite musical journey from David Cassidy to the Osmonds via David Essex.

Director Anna Linstrom and book writer Mike James together with Set and Costume Designer Tim Shortall have ensured that the world of Jackie the magazine bursts off the stage. The magazine’s infamous speech bubbles, period fashions is combined with mirror-balls to ensure that Jackie the musical was imbued with fun and love from start to finish.

We’re taken back to an uncomplicated period with no mobile phones, no texting, no e-mails and no twitter! A time when teenage girls sought advice from resident agony aunts, Cathy and Claire, who provided advice on how to deal with the opposite sex, and important issues like, how to have soft elbows, and iron your hair!

This is truly a 5 star production. Everything about the show is first class, the performances, the costumes, the set. This is a fabulous feel good night out and comparisons are going to be made with Mamma Mia. But I think there is space for both shows and Jackie deserves a West End run if only for the Puppy Love scene.

Sunderland Empire was filled with ladies of a certain age, all wanting to relive their youth and wallow in the sea of nostalgia that came with the show. And it was a much deserved standing ovation – which lead quite nicely into a bit of a boogie at the end

Go and see this show now and enjoy possibly the best night out this year.

Reviewed by Lindsay Sykes
Photo: Pamela Raith Photography