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Son of a Preacher Man – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Writer: Warner Brown

Director & Choreographer: Craig Revel Horwood

Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts

Like many musicals, Son of a Preacher Man is a story about love. The plot follows Alison (Michelle Long), Kat (Alice Barlow) and Paul (Michael Howe) as they search for answers surrounding their unrequited loves. Although the three characters are from three different generations, the unlikely trio joins forces to hunt down ‘The Preacher Man’ record shop in Soho and ‘The Preacher Man’ himself, who ran it in the sixties. Something of an agony uncle for the music-loving youth of the era, The Preacher Man gained a reputation for the advice he bestowed. So much so, that his reputation has been passed down generations.

The youngest of the three, Kat was told of the wonder of The Preacher Man when she lived with her Grandmother. Teacher Alison, by her Mother and Paul, was actually there, in the swinging sixties, in the middle of it all. Each one now seeks out his expertise. Kat for advice on a man she matched with on the internet that she can’t stop thinking about. Recent widow Alison to clarify some confusing feelings she’s been experiencing for someone inappropriate, and Paul to track down his teenage crush from the record shop days. 

The three characters find their way to Soho and to the shop, only to discover that it’s no longer The Preacher Man but a coffee shop and that The Preacher Man himself is a long time gone. All they find are three enthusiastic waitresses (the Cappuccino Sisters), and Simon (Nigel Richards), the son of The Preacher Man. Initially reluctant to help the three strangers, Simon eventually agrees to try and channel his Dad and help fix their problems. But is he up to the job?

Written by internationally renowned playwright Warner Brown and directed and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood. The cast dance and sing their way through Dusty Springfield’s greatest hits. With routines that vary from hilarious to heartfelt, and utilise many different styles and elements of dance. The routines are fast and fun and elevated by the ensemble cast who bring each number to life with rowdy live music from the stage.

The only thing letting the production down is the story. The plot is convoluted, due partly to the fact that it seems little effort has been put into disguising the shoehorning of Springfield songs throughout. Some of the dialogue feels clunky and elements of the show don’t quite follow through. The character of Alison falls behind after act one and never really has a chance to be developed. With all the characters conclusions feeling rushed.

However, the outstanding cast and direction is a triumph, and it is a credit to them how hugely entertaining the show is. Equal parts weird and wonderful, Son of a Preacher Man is a truly joyous experience.

Runs until 27 January 2018 | Image: Contributed

Writer: Warner Brown Director & Choreographer: Craig Revel Horwood Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts Like many musicals, Son of a Preacher Man is a story about love. The plot follows Alison (Michelle Long), Kat (Alice Barlow) and Paul (Michael Howe) as they search for answers surrounding their unrequited loves. Although the three characters are from three different generations, the unlikely trio joins forces to hunt down ‘The Preacher Man’ record shop in Soho and ‘The Preacher Man’ himself, who ran it in the sixties. Something of an agony uncle for the music-loving youth of the era, The Preacher Man gained a reputation for the…

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15 comments

  1. Very disappointing. Storyline was vague and disjointed and Dusty’s songs seemed if they were just slotted in! Debra Stephenson was advertised but never performed. At times the instruments (which were awesome) drowned out the singers. Sad to say one of the worst shows I have seen. Will not be recommending it. I am a regular theatre goer and for the first time in ages there has been no standing ovation!

  2. Joanna Richards

    Well. I totally disagree with above reviews. I and others with me and sat around me all said how good It was, good storyline, good singing and dancing, good set , thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw people standing up and clapping along with the music at the near end and quite a few giving a standing ovation. I am not such a regular theatre goer As such so I really appreciate the hard work all the performers gave to give me and my friends an enjoyable afternoon

  3. Vera Dumbleton

    So sad. First time I have felt let down by a show at the Royal. I commented to couple next to me that the choreographer should be shot, not realising it was Craig Reville Horwood. Storyline convoluted. Love the songs as I love Dusty and felt sorry for cast as they had so little to work with.

  4. This is the worse show I have seen at the theatre. The action was very wooden, especially the ? dance routines. The story line was very poor and amateurish, I’ve seen better local performances. The actors did their best and the only time the show came alive was in the last five minutes of the performance.

  5. The cast were all very good but the storyline just didn’t do them justice, a waste of talent in my opinion, I am very sorry but we left at half time and so did several others.

  6. The worst performance I have ever experienced. As we paid £34.00 per ticket we expected far better. We had suffered enough by the interval and left the building. I’ve seen better from amateur dramatics at local community centre.

  7. After 15 minutes I would have left, had it not been for the fact that me and my wife were stuck in the middle of row C. The worst performance I’ve seen at the Theatre Royal and the worst so-called musical I’ve ever experienced. We left at half-time and spoke to 2 people as we left who felt exactly the same. A complete waste of £72 and an hour and a half’s journey each way to see this tripe. There was no plot; the songs weren’t integrated and were ruined by bad singing and totally unnecessary use of musicians on stage drowning everything out and being a visual distraction. The musical director wants firing as the use of repetitive characters wearing the same costumes in many scenes seemed amateurish at the least and seemed to have been done to keep 3 women occupied on stage after their initial appearance as the Cappuccino Sisters was over. The biggest low point had to be the pathetic staging of “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” where 4 people with assembly chairs gradually appeared on stage singing to their empty chairs and dancing with them and often shouting the lyrics rather than the delicate touches required in this song. By this point this low rent production had not only run out of props, but also the willing suspension of disbelief which is required for any theatre production made this episode farcical. I knew what to do with myself and that was to get out ASAP at half time. I had a very small amount of sympathy for the cast, but they should have refused to go on with this crap. As a fan of Dusty Springfield, I’m glad she wasn’t around to witness this so called use of her great material herself.

  8. Christopher M Rowley

    It was ‘a disaster darling’! We spent £68 on two tickets and left after the first act! Poor script and storyline, cringeworthy acting and choreography but a few glimpses of talent in the harmonies from ‘The cappuccino sisters’ . The band were not bad too!

  9. My friends are Dusty Springfield fans, me not so much, so after reading the above reviews I can’t say I was looking forward to seeing Son of a Preacher Man too much. What a lovely surprise awaited me – it was a really great show!The acting and singing by all the cast was superb. A special mention for young Kat played by Alice Barlow. The stage setting was also good. There was a standing ovation at the packed theatre in Malvern so I think everyone else enjoyed themselves too. So glad I went.

  10. I was in Malvern too and am of the Dusty Springfield era. I was very disappointed. The music did not do justice to the songs. I agree that the storyline was weak. The costumes were a real mishmash and again not doing justice to the Dusty era. The last 5 minutes was the best bit but I can understand why some gave up long before. It is a current day story which did little for the past.

  11. Joanna Richards

    Yeah I really enjoyed it. Went to Plymouth to see it, Couldn’t understand the bad reviews tbh

  12. I was very disappointed,I went last night,I felt it was a very amateurish!! I love Dusty’s songs,but this show did not do them justice. As someone else pointed out,the cast did their best,and the finally was the best part,at last the cast came alive and so did the audience.I regularly go to the theatre,I won’t recommend this show.Sorry?

  13. Well I loved it!…and so did the young couple sat next to us. I’m too young to remember Dusty being in the charts, and think you may be disappointed if the Dusty songs are the main was reason you are going to see this. It isn’t a tribute to D’S, and is thoroughly modern in parts! I thought it well done, the storyline kept me interested with Dusty songs woven into the plot. Generally a high energy, feelgood production which was much better than I thought it would be.

  14. Sitting here, in Aylesbury, and the second half has just started. The story so far has been, at best, disjointed. Bought the tickets for my mum so very cheesed off.
    Its been full of awkward silences(crap directing Craig) And, as previous reviews, bizzarre scenes with a bit of Dusty thrown in. The actors tried their best but nothing could save this hash up.
    The long lost Frank character reassembled Victor Meldrew and even sounded like him when in song.
    I have seen Junior school plays with more polish than this.
    But as the saying goes. You can’t polish a turd.

  15. Chester Storyhouse 28th March
    First half absolute rubbish ..worst musical ever ! Empty boring storyline ..awful awful awful .. second half bit more substance but not good enough ..waste of 70 pounds !! Let down Dusty Springfield