Friday, July 19

The Drifters Girl – Birmingham Hippodrome

Faye Treadwell, born in Arkansas in 1926, owned and managed the Drifters following the death of her husband George Treadwell in 1967 and since then navigated their careers and oversaw many legal battles over the use of the name. She made history as one of the first African American managers in show business and created a reputation as a hard-headed businesswoman. Plus, she gave the world the Drifters!

For those of us brought up in the seventies the great American songbook was filling up nicely with much loved numbers by tunesmiths who’d long since packed away their music stands and headed for swimming pool filled retirement, but not Miss Treadwell and not the Drifters. They were still touring well into the eighties and beyond with Tina Treadwell taking over her mother’s musical mantle after she passed away in 2011. And what an act to follow!

From her portrayal in The Drifters Girl Faye Treadwell comes across a fair minded, determined career woman with a spotless reputation for hard work and fairness, but when you spot the show is produced by her daughter it’s hardly surprising. It’s a show riddled with all the great hits we expect, though not quite as many as we’d like or, perhaps, enough to fill two hours and it’s the songs which resonate and support a somewhat lacklustre show. A surprisingly small cast is spread very thinly offering a plethora of characters all of whom become increasingly more ill-defined as the evening progresses. Miles Anthony Daley, Ashford Campbell, Tarik Frimpong and Daniel Haswell take on the unenviable task for playing everyone. Perhaps another couple of actors might have made the task just a little easier. And Jaydah Bella-Ricketts plays a character the programme refers to as “Girl” perhaps a version of the producer herself.

Ed Curtis’s surprisingly bland script leads us through a by numbers biog of Treadwell and ticks off each event after event without much invention or delight. But it’s Carly Mercedes Dyer’s towering performance as Treadwell which really redeems the evening. Despite weak dramatic material she reclaims the part with two stunning musical performances (including a refreshing new take on “Stand By Me”) which, in a stronger show, would have been show stopping.

Sadly, the dramatic moments, the real grit of the tale, are passed over too swiftly to mean anything opting instead for more focus on the court cases, with their inevitable outcomes and the disruptive band members. We are left not knowing Faye Treadwell despite the fact she has been in front of us all evening.

Reviewer: Peter Kinnock

Reviewed: 16th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.