Sunday, May 19

The Drifters Girl – Hull New Theatre

There aren’t many 1950s singing groups whose story can still pack theatres 70 years later.

But The Drifters are no ordinary group as we discovered while watching The Drifters Girl, a new musical, at the Hull New Theatre on Tuesday.

This entertaining production was as much about the group’s manager, Faye Treadwell, as about the group itself.

Treadwell (the amazing Carly Mercedes Dyer) managed the group from the 1970s for 30 years, when women weren’t expected to be in business, never mind actually running the whole shebang.

And being the first female African American manager brought its own difficulties.

Faye’s husband, George, was the original manager of The Drifters, but when he died in 1967, his wife took over the management.

Facing litigation in the US and needing to make money to fight any case that may arise from that, the determined widow upped sticks and took The Drifters to London to try their hand on the British music scene.

The move paid off with the group touring the country. But it wasn’t all plain sailing – prejudice reared its ugly head in some hotels.

Since forming in 1953, there have been more than 60 different Drifters’ vocalists, but on Tuesday night we had just four – Miles Anthony Daley, Tarik Frimpong, Daniel Haswell and Ashford Campbell.

The four played quite a few different roles between them – including a very amusing Bruce Forsyth as he presented the group on Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the 1970s.

And all had powerful singing voices that did justice to smash-hits such as Save The Last Dance For Me, Come On Over To My Place, You’re More Than A Number In My Little Red Book and Saturday Night At The Movies to name just a few on the night.

And Campbell, in one of his roles, as Ben E King, gave a great rendition of King’s hit, Stand By Me.

Jaydah Bell-Ricketts in her understated, but nevertheless important, role as Treadwell’s daughter, Tina, completed the small cast.

But this musical was more about the lady who stood by The Drifters, having faith in their abilities and in her own management skills.

Dyer was rarely off the stage in costumes to die for – especially the “leopard-skin” coat and the finale’s sparkly gown. Add a fantastic singing voice and what’s not to like.

The stage setting throughout was mainly different shades of grey, in angular blocks, and stage-wide strip lights which moved when the occasion demanded. Rolling mist added to the atmosphere as did the rousing music from musicians in the orchestra pit.

The energetic choreography in The Drifters Girl would seem old-fashioned nowadays but, of course, it reflected the times of the group’s hey days.

At the interval I agreed with a fellow reviewer that some of the spoken words were difficult to make out clearly, but that is my only gripe.

The Drifters are renowned worldwide, but what this musical does is bring Faye Treadwell into the spotlight. Without her they would have probably drifted into oblivion.

But by the audience’s enthusiastic reaction on Tuesday night, this musical will ensure “Drifters Girl” Treadwell and her group will be in the spotlight for many years to come.

Running until Saturday, March 16th, 2024; 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Wednesday 13th, Thursday 14th and Saturday 16th. Tickets cost from £20. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 12th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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