Churchill Theatre, Bromley – until 9 September 2017
Guest reviewer: Jeanine Jones
‘Son of a Preacher Man’- we all know the Dusty Springfield classic, but in an age of social media communication and online dating it’s easy to forget the sentiment and soul of the swinging sixties.
The Son of a Preacher Man musical cleverly weaves together the iconic hits written for Dusty Springfield into an extremely resonant piece for the present day. Against an atmospheric, colourful set designed by Morgan Large the worlds of three characters converge, each impacted in their own way by the legendary Preacher Man record shop which was once a mainstay in this Soho street setting. The modern cliché of an artistan coffee shop stands in its place, the yearning of the characters for a simple cup of tea and a fig roll no doubt resounding as much with the audience as it does with myself.
The story transports us through the lives and pasts of the three main characters through beautiful instrumental and vocal arrangements by Paul Herbert, these really do the hits justice and both the main and supporting cast have the pipes to deliver on some challenging numbers. The show truly is a celebration of music, with instrumentalists peppering the stage throughout and many of the cast showing their great versatility as both actors and musicians.
Stand out performances are by Diana Vickers (Kat) whose character comes into her own as a feisty, girating sass-pot, literally booting her caddish would-be suitor off the stage to cheers of ‘go on girl’ from one audience member tonight. Vickers fires on all cylinders throughout the show, paying perfect tribute to Dusty Springfield by belting out a solid vocal for hits such as ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’. Her acting chops shine through, with great comic timing and a voice that’s reminiscent of the legendary Cilla Black, one of the true sounds of the sixties.
Michael Howe (Paul), Debra Stephenson (Alison) and Ian Reddington (Simon, and the Son of the Preacher Man) bring a lovely warmth and groundedness to the show, and are all charming in their roles which tell the story for the thirties and upwards demographic.
Liam Vincent-Kilbride (Mike/Andy/Young Jack) and Lewis Kidd (Liam/Young Paul) bring oodles of Scottish charm, charisma and vitality to their performances, and Vincent-Kilbride pulls off some nifty choreography with Vickers whilst delivering a solid rendition of ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’. The Cappuccino Sisters played by Michelle Long, Kate Hardisty and Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong infuse the show with swing in their close harmonies, adeptly singing, dancing and playing instruments to mesmorise the audience. The supporting cast show equal versatility, and powerhouse Ellie Jane-Goddard shines as Sandra with a voice and saxophone skills to match.
The show flows along wonderfully with both ‘wow’ and ‘aw’ moments a-plenty, and whilst integrating the theme of technology – even ‘selfies’ and online dating – always comes back to the universal experience of love and loss which were the heart and soul of Dusty Springfield’s hits.
When I gushed briefly to the very dashing director and choreographer Craig Revel Horwood about his brilliance, he had put tonight’s performance ‘in the laps of the gods’- well it’s clear that the theatre gods were beaming and bopping their way through the show, particularly during the climatic gospel-eqeue Preacher Man finale which raised the roof!
The full house tonight, with audience members of all ages, is testament that the hits of Dusty Springfield are alive and well. It was a joy to see so many older audience members reliving the music of their youth with huge smiles on their faces. Son of a Preacher Man is a perfect antidote for the modern day doldrums with something for every generation, and is not to be missed!