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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: THE DRIFTERS GIRL @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH

🎭 The Drifters Girl 

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 1TR    

🗓 Tuesday 13th February 2024

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



A NOSTALGIC FEEL-GOOD NIGHT OUT


The smash hit musical The Drifters Girl is playing at Theatre Royal Plymouth all this week as part of its first ever UK tour. It's no secret how much I love this show and it was great to be invited along to see the show at my local theatre. From the opening bars of Hello Happiness this high-energy jukebox musical never lets up.


Featuring more line up changes than The Sugababes, The Drifters Girl follows the story of the hit-making group from humble beginnings in the 1950's, through their glory days in the 1960's and into the 1970's when they came to England to create some of their most iconic hits.


It also focuses on the story of Faye Treadwell, the trailblaising black woman who stood tall and fought in a male dominated industry to get herself heard and came out on top. As manager of the group, she steered them through austerity and many battles to become the huge success they were, and still are,


Carly Mercedes Dyer shines as Faye in this production, with audiable gasps from the audience as she performs a spine-tingling reprise of Stand By Me to close act 1. My favourite performance of hers has to be Harlem Child in act 2. Here Faye is leaving her daughter behind to take the group to England and she portrays raw emotion which is heartbreaking to witness.



Dyer competently leads the show as she essentially narrates the story, using the character of Girl, her daughter played by Jaydah Bell Rickets, as a tool for storytelling. There is a lot of story to tell and the book by Ed Curtis is fast-paced but never confuses or loses its audience, telling the story in a direct and succinct way.


We see the struggles that Faye faces as she tries to navigate the music industry as both a woman and as a person of colour. There's personal heartbreak, sexism galore and a huge legal battle. When she comes to England she has to deal with the 'No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish' policies of many hotels.


The four guys in this production - Miles Anthony Daley, Ashford Campbell, Tarik Frimpong and Daniel Haswell - give a masterclass on multi-rolling as between them they play all the members of The Drifters as well as many other roles including Nat King Cole, news reporters and Peter, Paul and Mary!


Ashford Campbell gives a career defining performance and is a real vocal and physical chameleon, changing his entire self with each character he plays. As Ben E. King he brings the house down with his glorious rendition of Stand By Me and he is cutely vulnerable as he portrays the tragic Rudy Lewis. His performance of Under the Boardwalk was sensational and was possibly the best vocal performance of the entire evening - although it's a tough contest. He perhaps showed the greatest versatility as his two main characters were so different from one another and he changed almost instantly from one to the other.



Miles Anthony Daley displays sensational soulful vocals throughout and during his performance of There Goes My Baby it's like receiving a warm vocal hug. He has a truly sublime tone that blends beautifully and gives a great depth to the harmonies throughout. As George Treadwell he shows great strength as well as real love for Faye.


Tarik Frimpong gives a high-energy performance throughout and he oozes charisma as he portrays original Drifter Clyde McPhatter. He is such a joyous performer to watch as he really throws himself into his roles. Even as the unlikebale Lover Paterson there is something almost charming and loveable about him.


Completing the line up of The Drifters is Daniel Haswell who, as Johnny Moore, leads some of the most iconic of the group's songs such as Saturday Night at the Movies, There Goes My First Love and Come On Over to My Place which he does with seemingly effortless ease. He has a real booming vocal which is glorious to listen to and he really does these songs justice.



The vocals on display are really the star of the show with superstar performances from the entire talented company and the mega-mix of songs at the end gets the audience up on their feet singing and dancing.


The acting is also a real sensation. When six people can fill a stage and make you think that the cast is a lot bigger then you're onto a real winner.


Every aspect of this production works to enhance the story. With Karen Bruce at the helm of the choreography, you know you're going to get slick moves and Jonathan Church's direction completely understands the book and delivers the story wonderfully.


The set design by Anthony Ward is infinitely versatile and has been cleverly adapted from the West End set into a touring set. Married with video design by Andrej Goulding and Ben Cracknell's sublime lighting design, The Drifters Girl is a technical masterpiece.



The Drifters Girl is a feel-good night out and is playing at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 17th February. Head to www.theatreroyal.com/whats-on/the-drifters-girl/ to secure your tickets before it's too late.


Neill Kovacic-Clarke


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.


My ticket for this performance of The Drifters Girl was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.



CAST LIST:

Carly Mercedes Dyer as Faye Treadwell; Miles Anthony Daley as George Treadwell (& others); Ashford Campbell as Ben E. King / Rudy Lewis (& others); Tarik Frimpong as Clyde McPhatter / Lover Paterson (& others); Daniel Haswell as Johnny Moore / Gerhart Thrasher (& others); Jaydah Bell Rickets as Girl


RUNNING TIME (approx):

2 hours 20 minutes, including interval


CONTENT WARNINGS:

Depictions of racial and sexist discrimination; Mild Language; Tobacco depiction; Flashing lights; Haze; Loud music; Sudden loud noise (gunshot sound)


Production photography by Johan Persson

The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions.

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