Garrick Theatre, London
It should be first pointed out that I went into The Drifters Girl not knowing very much about The Drifters and their manager Faye Treadwell, but by the time I came I found myself curious finding out more about the background to the group and the constant battles that Faye went through.
Featuring a book by Ed Curtis, The Drifters Girl is whizz through a part of musical history which has many fascinating moments in it – but at times feel like a snapshot of this history, particularly through the first act in which you see so many band members coming and going it is almost dizzying and lacks focus. However, this being said the strongest moments come when it makes references to the sexism and racism that was around at the time and shows just how strong of a personality Faye Treadwell had to be in order to be a band manager in a male-dominated industry.
Directed by Jonathan Church, this is a very sleekly put together production that really brings the era of The Drifters to life and celebrates the music that they released. With the help of Anthony Ward’s unfussy but smart set and Ben Cracknell’s dazzling lighting design, the performances of beloved songs such as ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, ‘Under the Boardwalk’ and ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ really shine. Equally as beautiful is Karen Bruce’s wonderfully joyful choreography that enhances the vocal performances from the cast wonderfully. Each routine matches the style of song perfectly and is really entertaining from beginning to end of each sequence.
But it is the performances that also really shine. Beverley Knight once again proves what a powerhouse she is as Faye Treadwell – giving plenty of bite to Faye’s personality, particularly during her battles with Lover Patterson which are particularly fascinating to watch, while vocally singing with such soul that is mesmerising to listen to. Yet, this is of course not a one woman show – and the performances of Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Calender, Matt Henry, and Tosh Wanogho-Maud (who as well as The Drifters play numerous other characters) are all equally as memorable. Their harmonies are so wonderfully delightful to listen to that it does feel as though you are watching The Drifters themselves. Meanwhile, their ability to switch character without blinking an eye is incredible – each character feels suitably distinctive that it is possible to keep up with who they are playing.
So while the story itself needs a bit more clarifying (not surprising given its complexity), there is no doubting that this is still a fun and fascinating show to watch – crammed filled with songs that will have your toes tapping from start to finish and performances that dazzle. But just as importantly it makes you want to go out and discover the story of The Drifters and Faye Treadwell for yourself.
By Emma Clarendon
The Drifters Girl continues to play at the Garrick Theatre. To book tickets click here or visit: Love Theatre.com, Last Minute.com, From the Box Office, Theatre Tickets Direct or London Theatre Direct.
‘@BeverleyKnight once again proves what a powerhouse she is’: @LoveLdnLoveCul learns about the life & times of @thedriftersgirl. ★★★★ #TheDriftersGirl #WestEnd