Jonathan’s Church’s brand-new musical The Drifters Girl focuses on Faye Treadwell, the female manager of The Drifters, one of the biggest R&B groups of all time. Through some of their greatest hits, the jukebox musical follows Treadwell’s journey from a Southern-born teacher to the world’s first African American female music manager as she recounts her story to her daughter.
Singing sensation and Queen of British Soul Beverley Knight, stars as Faye Treadwell alongside four extremely talented singers – Adam J Bernard (Dreamgirls), Tarinn Callender (Hamilton), Matt Henry (Kinky Boots) and Tosh Wanogho-Maud (Showboat).
Packing in plenty of high-energy and fun, the cast performed classics such as ‘Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies’, ‘Rat Race’ and ‘You’re More than a Number In my Little Red Book’, which left the audience swaying in their seats and bobbing to the music.
Anthony Ward’s simple set was lit up with cool neon lights designed by Ben Cracknell allowing Fay Fullerton’s colourful costumes to really shine. The shift in style trends throughout the decades from the tight-fitting trousers of the 50s to the iconic flares of the 60s and 70s, the outfits reflected how the band changed, developed and grew over the years pretty well.
The six-person cast which included Dara Ajagbe as Treadwell’s daughter did a magnificent job of telling this incredible story. From a grumpy cab driver and snooty hotel receptionist to excitable British music producers and the endless replacement singers that The Drifters got through, the male cast members seamlessly alternated between a multitude of characters. Each role was delivered with as much enthusiasm, skill and individuality as the last which is no easy task yet this fantastic four truly triumph.
Tosh Wanogho-Maud was particularly impressive as he switched from a smooth rendition of ‘Stand by Me’ as Ben E. King to the ill-fated group member Rudy Lewis. His portrayal as a flamboyant bartender was one of the funniest moments in the show. Adam J Bernard also shined as George Treadwell, his chemistry with Knight was palpable, especially in their heartfelt duet.
Despite sharing the spotlight with four exceptional male leads, Beverley Knight truly commanded the stage embodying the straight-talking and resilient Faye Treadwell perfectly. With her powerhouse vocals that received plenty of applause to her unwavering determination as Treadwell struggles to carve out her own path in the cut-throat music industry, Knight was the star of the show.
Not forgetting Matt Henry and Tarinn Callender who delivered equally show-stopping performances. Henry masterfully played the scheming manager Lover Patterson alongside his stellar singing and dancing whilst Callender really tied the group together, replicating the soulfulness and charm of The Drifters with his heavenly vocals and killer-watt smile.
At times the story was a little hard to follow, with some moments quickly glossed over such as the racism experienced by the group during their UK tour, the music certainly makes up for it. Although at first glance the show will most likely attract those who grew up listening to The Drifters and fancy a night of nostalgia, the spectacular cast, fabulous costumes and amazing dancing make The Drifters Girl an entertaining evening that everyone would enjoy.
The Drifters Girl is currently showing at the Garrick Theatre, tickets can be purchased here: https://thedriftersgirl.com/
Reviewer: Gemma Prince
Reviewed: 30th November 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★