REVIEW: Save The Last Dance For Me, Sunderland Empire, Until May 14
It's hard to believe that Save The Last Dance For Me is Lola Saunders' theatrical debut.
The former X Factor contestant, from East Boldon, is a natural and she shines in this nostalgic musical trip down memory lane, which kicked off a hometown leg for Lola tonight.
The jukebox musical tells the story of sisters Jennifer (Saunders) and Marie (Elizabeth Carter), who go on holiday for the first time ever without their parents.
After arriving in Lowestoft, they meet US Air Force officer Milton (Antony Costa), who invites them to a party at the base.
Jennifer takes a shine to him and Marie falls in love at first sight with airman Curtis (Jason Denton), but in the 1960s, the colour of their skin could threaten to keep them apart.
The summer love story is set to the soundtrack of the swingin' decade and the popular songs, like A Teenager In Love and Please Mr Postman, had audience members singing along.
The show certainly seemed to appeal to a certain demographic of the public, but you didn't have to be around in the 60s to enjoy it.
The story is a little corny and some of the obvious set-ups for songs were a bit cheesy, with actors saying a line that was obviously written in so that a particular track could be used, but all musicals are a bit corny, and it's a lot of fun.
Carter was super sweet in her role and she has a great voice. She really told a story with her renditions of songs like This Magic Moment and Suspicion.
But Saunders really was the star of the show. Her character was the most natural amongst the cast and she exuded confidence. She's worlds apart from that nervous girl we saw on the X Factor just two years ago.
Her dance moves are great and her voice is stunning. Solo performances Little Sister and First Taste of Love were gorgeous. She effortlessly hit those big notes and her performance of Be My Baby alongside Carlo (Alan Howell) was fantastic, it was a huge stand out moment in the show.
The Air Force base's bar was a great set, but other parts of it weren't as clean looking, and a lighting mishap made for an awkward moment when two stage hands were clearly visible lifting a bus stop from the stage.
The actor-musicians who provide the soundtrack were a big selling point though. The orchestra is usually hidden beneath the stage, so it was nice to see them in the spotlight for a change.
But putting the instruments down for a cappella versions of Sweets For My Sweet and Hushabye provided two beautiful moments in the show.
It's a show that will automatically have greater appeal for people who want to reminisce about their own lives in the time period, but it's a sugary sweet show for the whole family.
Save The Last Dance For Me runs until Saturday, May 14. Click here to book tickets.