Years of working together were the perfect qualification when writing duo Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran tackled their first musical.
Dreamboats and Petticoats – a show still going strong in the tenth anniversary year of the CD compilation which inspired it – is at the Theatre Royal Brighton from Oct 2-7 .
“The album came out in 2007, and we were asked to write the show in 2008,” recalls Maurice. “We were asked to take a compilation album of 40 odd songs and turn it into a musical. We had conversations about the setting, and it started to take shape. The songs are all late 50s, early 60s, which is a little bit earlier than our era. We weren’t allowed out after dark until a few years later!
“But they had the idea that it should be set in a youth club, and we listened to all the songs. We knew most of them, but they were mostly your big brother’s or your big sister’s music rather than our music. But we knew enough to know that the first album was very ballad heavy and had very few up-tempo numbers. We asked if we could include songs that weren’t on the album, and the record company said we could have any songs they could clear and the ones we used that weren’t on the album would go on album volume two. So we spent a merry time listening to songs on YouTube and things like that, going through top 50s. The stand-out songs were clear, and at two levels the songs dictated the show. At one obvious level, we knew we were going to have a Bobby and a Sue and a Laura because those were names that turned up in iconic pop songs. But it was also a synthesis really. We found to our delight we could really put something together. It was like one of those things you get in a Christmas cracker, the black plastic square thing where you have got nine holes and eight tiles that you have to slide around to make a picture. It was a bit like that. But we were also helped by the fact that some of the songs are very much story songs, things like The Wanderer, The Great Pretender and Run Around Sue. They were songs about young love and yearning.”
And then their shared experience came into play.
“We have been working together as writers for more than 40 years. It’s now 37 years since we gave up our day jobs. It was a huge risk, but luckily, we were too stupid to know that. Lawrence was a journalist, so he could have gone back to that. But I was a civil servant of reasonable rank, and that would have been harder to go back to. But we spent a couple of years doing bits and pieces, and when we got our first break, our first TV series, Holding The Fort, it did pretty well. We looked at what else was on TV at the time, and there was a lot that we didn’t care for, and in our glorious ignorance we said we could do better than most of them and decided we would give it a go.”
Successes since have included The New Statesman and Birds of a Feather.