REVIEW: THE DRIFTERS GIRL @ THE GARRICK THEATRE
🎭 The Drifters Girl
📍 Garrick Theatre, 2 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0HH
🗓 Tuesday 20th September 2022
THE HOTTEST TICKET IN THE WEST END
If you follow me on social media then you will know that I have a slight obsession with this show! The story is thrilling and the performances are out of this world and I can't stop going back for more! I have seen it six times already and am hoping to see it three more times before it closes, including the final performance on 15th October!
I wasn't planning to review this performance because I've already reviewed this show twice before. I decided to however because three of the five performers on the stage on Tuesday had not featured in any of my previous reviews. In fact, it was my first time seeing two of them perform.
Covers are so important to the theatre industry, especially so over the last year. The Drifters Girl have some of the best covers in the business and it is their hard work and dedication which have kept this show open.
Every single person who performs in this show is nothing short of phenomenal. I have never entered the theatre and seen the cast list and been disappointed, Each person brings something different to the stage and each have a different take on the characters meaning that each time I've seen it I have taken something different away.
I have now seen all but one of the covers and would love it if they were all brought on stage at the end of the final performance as a way of saying thank you to them because they have been just as much a part of the success of this show as the lead actors.
I will not be mentioning below which of the actors were covers as I believe they deserve to shine and to be reviewed purely for their talent.
The Drifters Girl tells the story of Fayrene Johnson who, after a chance meeting with Nat King Cole leads her to meeting George Treadwell, has her life turned upside down and becomes joint manager of The Drifters alongside Treadwell.
In the late 1950's women did not hold such high positions in the music industry, and certainly not a woman of colour with no background in the business. This show explores the barriers she faced throughout her career. She marries George and after his untimely death she continues to manage the band and fights a legal battle to keep the name The Drifters.
Faye Treadwell is played in this production by Broadway royalty Felicia Boswell, who is making her West End debut in The Drifters Girl. Boswell is an accomplished performer and her acting skills really draw you into the story. She is utterly believable and takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions throughout. When Faye loses George, Boswell closes the first act with an emotionally powerful performance of I Don't Wanna Go On Without You / Stand By Me which leaves the audience spellbound. Her unique voice is wonderful to listen to and when combined with the emotion and pain she portrays, your heart gets ripped out and the audience applause is deafening.
Other stand out performances of hers are Nobody But Me, where she is promising to always support George no matter what, and Harlem Child when she is leaving her daughter in the US while she is touring the UK. She seems to perform big numbers effortlessly and uses her powerful instrument to its full capability which is an honour to witness. She has a power to her voice that is not dissimilar to that of Tina Turner.
The combination of her crazy vocals and pure acting skills make her one of my favourite performers ever. I really hope that she is able to stay in London when the show closes because she has a talent that in incomparable.
There were a lot of personnel changes within The Drifters and these are cleverly shown throughout and it also gives each of the actors a chance to perform lead vocals. In fact, every role apart from Faye and Girl are portrayed by the four guys. Yes, EVERY ROLE! This includes female roles too, such as Mary in the group Peter, Paul and Mary!
Matt Henry MBE (Kinky Boots; Avenue Q) is a force on the stage as the charismatic Clyde McPhatter. His silky smooth vocals on Money Honey and Fools Fall in Love are a joy to listen to. He is obviously a very accomplished performer and his professionalism shines throughout.
His other main character of Lover Paterson is less likeable but Henry gives a convincing performance of this integral character. I really enjoy the interaction between him and Boswell during the song When My Little Girl Is Smiling.
Ashford Campbell (9 to 5; Dreamgirls) has beautiful vocals and his performances of songs such as Stand By Me and Under the Boardwalk leave the audience in awe of his talent.
He portrays the tragic story of Rudy Lewis with beautiful realism and the conclusion of his story is a real heartbreaking moment. He seems to have the ability to really draw the audience in and is utterly believable as each character he plays. His performance of In the Land of Make Believe alongside Henry is another standout moment in the show.
Michael James Stewart (making his West End debut) is great as George Treadwell. The way he and Boswell play out the story of George and Faye is convincing and you can really feel the love between them.
When he performs There Goes My Baby you really feel every word he is singing and your heart breaks just a little.
Ethan Davis (making his West End debut) takes over as lead singer Johnny Moore and we see the band come to England to tour. Davis takes on arguably some of The Drifters biggest hits. He belts out songs such as Kissin' in the Back Row of the Movies and Saturday Night at the Movies with seemingly effortless ease.
There's something about watching Davis on stage that makes me smile. His charisma makes you want to watch him whenever he's on the stage and his velvet tongued vocals are a real treat for the ears.
There are so many stand out moments throughout this show and the way these guys transition so slickly between their characters is an experience that needs to be seen to believed. They not only change their voices, but their whole physicality changes. So much so that it could almost be a different actor on the stage. This is unparalleled in any other production that I've seen
I really enjoy the performance of Come On Over to My Place, which shows the band touring through the UK and the racism that they faced. The song is broken up by Faye trying to check into hotels, which is not always easy due to the No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish policies. This piece is also another fantastic showcase of the talent of the boys as they display some great regional British accents.
The set and lighting in the production compliment the story perfectly and the attention to detail in the costumes all help with the authenticity of the story.
The role of Girl is shared by a handful of young performers and at this performance she was portrayed by Ellie-Mae Siame. She had good diction throughout and is already a very accomplished actor for someone so young.
From the opening notes of Hello Happiness to the finale and You're More Than a Number in my Little Red Book, the energy of this show never falters and you are treated to note perfect performances. You do not need to be a fan of The Drifters or even know who they are to enjoy this show!
If you only see one West End show this year, then make it The Drifters Girl. You need to be quick though as the final performance is scheduled for Saturday 15th October. Head to www.thedriftersgirl.com to book tickets and to check out show information and cast biographies.
If you miss it in London, the show is due to tour in 2023. Dates, venues and casting are still to be announced.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.