Theatre Review: Son of a Preacher Man

31 January 18 words: Tanya Raybould

The Dusty Springfield musical that's nowt to do with Dusty Springfield

Debra Stephenson (Alison) and Lewis Kidd (Liam) in UK tour of Son of A Preacher Man. Photo by Darren Bell.

Debra Stephenson (Alison) and Lewis Kidd (Liam) in Son of A Preacher Man. Photo by Darren Bell.

Somebody somewhere must have sat down, poised at a keyboard and thought, right lets do a Dusty Springfield Musical.

It would be the story of a football playing girl, born to a musical family in London, who went onto become one of the most successful British female performers. Let's call it 'Wishin' and Hopin' they might have said as it told of her meteoric rise to fame, however on the way it was troubled by severe insecurities, addictions to drink and drugs, bouts of self harm and fear of losing her career if exposed as a lesbian, before sadly losing her battle with breast cancer. OK, lets call it 'In Private' maybe? Nah, that's not feel good stuff, let's rip that up and loosely string together a juke box musical.

Do not go along expecting to see a peroxide blonde with panda eye black make up. Instead what we have is a bizarre story written by internationally renowned playwright Warner Brown centered around three characters, Paul, Alison and Kat. Characters from three generations, in search of answers surrounding their unrequited loves. Together they join forces to track down the Preacher Man, a record shop owner with a talent as an agony uncle who dispensed relationship advice to the music loving lonely hearted youth of the swinging sixties. Each at a cross roads in their life, Paul mooned over a regular at the shop and wonders what might have been. Alison is an uncomfortable character, a widowed teacher who can't decide if her feelings for a teenage school boy are appropriate. Kat is snubbed by a match on a website.

Together they find their way to soho and the record store. Now a coffee shop, the Double Shot, where they meet 3 enthusiastic waitresses (the Cappucino Sisters) who add a touch of 40's glamour and backing music to some pivotal moments, and Simon the son of the preacher man - ah, I'd only there was a song about that. Initially reluctant Simon eventually agrees to channel his deceased father and fix their problems. Is he up to the job? And does he have secrets of his own?

The cast are outstanding and sing and dance their way through as Dusty's greatest hits come thick and fast. You can't fault the cast, they perform well and bring the songs to life, some with poignancy, but don't expect to hear them as you know them, sung in that famous breathy sensual mezzo-soprano style, and they don't all seem to fit but are rather thrown in to make up time, concentrating more on this than the quality of the story, which drains the pace.

Dusty and her fans deserve better as a fitting tribute, but if you are going along, see it more as a lighthearted celebration of her music.

Son of a Preacher Man plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 3 February 2018.

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