Jackie the Musical

The Alhambra

Once there was a world without mobile phones, Facebook or anything resembling a dating app.

And teenage girls seeking advice on boys, fashion, make-up and life itself looked no further than Jackie magazine. With its photo love stories, fashion tips, pop gossip, fun quizzes and must-read problem page, Jackie brought Carnaby Street glamour to suburban bedrooms. For girls growing up in the 1970s and 80s, it was like having an exciting but ultimately sensible big sister.

There had been nothing like Jackie before then, and there has been nothing like it since. At its peak, the publication had 600,000 readers, with sackfuls of mail arriving each week. Nearly a quarter of a century after the presses stopped rolling, Jackie still has a place in the hearts of those girls, now women in their forties and fifties, whose formative years were spent devouring articles on everything from applying blusher to playing footsie.

The magazine and its legacy is celebrated in Jackie the Musical, a terrific new show with the focus on a middle-aged divorcee dipping her toes into the online dating scene. When she comes across a stash of her old Jackie magazines, she realises she needs them now for the same reason she read them 40 years ago - largely for dating advice.

With a lively score of floor-filler hits, including I Love to Love, Puppy Love, Hold Me Close and 20th Century Boy, paying tribute to the likes of David Cassidy, Marc Bolan and Donny Osmond, the pop pin-ups of Jackie's heyday, this is a hugely entertaining show exploring the angst of adolescence, the pain of separation, the flush of new love, and the bond of female friendship. The packed audience - comprised mainly of women like me who have fond memories of reading Jackie as a girl - loved it. I remember going to see Mamma Mia a few days after it first opened in the West End, in the mid-1990s, and there was the same giddy vibe. I wouldn't be surprised if Jackie the Musical was a similar success.

Janet Dibley was a class act as Jackie, struggling to cope with divorce and single motherhood. Utterly believable as a woman at a crossroads in her life, she blended comedy and poignancy, and showcased impressive singing skills. The scenes with her younger self, played with wide-eyed optimism by Daisy Steere, were sweet and moving. "I have a husband! Oh, I knew I'd get married!" the young Jackie chirps, as she learns more about her older life. "You have a lot to learn," her older self tells her, more than once.

Strong performances too from Michael Hamway as Jackie's lovestruck son David, Lori Haley Fox as her loyal friend Jill, Graham Bickley as her ex, John, Nicholas Bailey as love interest, Max, and Bob Harms as charismatic barman Frankie.

The action raced along, thanks largely to a fabulous young cast of dancers working Arlene Phillips' slick choreography. Highlights included a Pans People-style literal translation of Osmonds hit Crazy Horses and a dazzling mash-up of Tiger feet, I Love to Boogie and See My Baby Jive.

The thought bubbles translating Jackie's thoughts were a nice touch, along with an appearance by problem page gurus Cathy and Claire, looking just as I'd imagined.

A must-see show. In the words of Jackie herself, it's the 'Best Thing For Girls - Next To Boys!'

Runs until Saturday.