Sunday, July 14

The Drifters Girl – Edinburgh Playhouse

Faye Treadwell was the manager, and driving force, behind the iconic American vocal group, The Drifters. Formed in 1959, the group’s hits included Hello Happiness, Saturday Night at the Movies, Under the Boardwalk, and so many more familiar numbers. Between the soundtrack, and the trailblazing lead character, the story seems to be made for musical theatre success.

The line-up of the Drifters changed frequently during their history. We see members being drafted into the military, or fired by Treadwell and her husband George, or undergoing other personal tragedies. Sometimes – like Ben E. King (Ethan Davis), they move on to greater success elsewhere. In total, The Drifters featured 60 different vocalists during their history. This means a lot of multi-roling. Matthew Dawkins, Davis, Tarik Frimpong and Daniel Haswell are kept busy playing all the band members, as well as George Treadwell (Dawkins), and the many other male characters who drift in and out of the story. Each of them takes a turn as the lead singer. It does occasionally get a bit confusing, but the story is really about the woman at the helm of the group.

Carly Mercedes Dyer is a powerhouse as the formidable Faye Treadwell. Treadwell was an African American woman who faced widowhood at an early age, and built a successful business in the music industry, all while raising her daughter. She had to fight harder than most for everything she achieved.  She undoubtedly possessed a great strength of personality, and Dyer’s performance lives up to this, portraying the character with humour and determination. Dyer’s vocal performances tell the story of the character, and she is extraordinary, filling the room with her rich, powerful voice. A particular highlight for me was Harlem Girl, which is addressed to Treadwell’s daughter (played by the likeable Jaydah Bell-Ricketts).

The show is packed with familiar, well-loved songs, and the male performers sing as an ensemble just as the band would have done in concert. They incorporate simple dance moves as a group, which is a lot of fun. I honestly had no idea how many of these beloved songs were sung by The Drifters.

The antagonist is the sleazy Lover Paterson (played gleefully by Tarik Frimpong), a cigar-toting business associate who, after the death of George Treadwell, attempts to take advantage of Faye and steal The Drifters brand. Faye takes the band to the UK on tour to buy some time, eventually raising enough money to face Paterson in court. In the UK, as in their home country, the group face racism on tour, but receive adulation from audiences when they perform.

At the end, there is a reprise of several of the most famous songs, and a fun, party atmosphere as we all celebrate the music of The Drifters. This is the inspiring story of a woman who succeeds against the odds, combined with popular and catchy songs. I loved it.

Playing until 4th May,

Reviewer: Wendy McEwan

Reviewed: 1st May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.