Book: Ed Curtis
Co-Creators: Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry, Beverley Knight and Tosh Wanogho-Maud
Director: Jonathan Church
Off the back of a successful stint in the West End,The Drifters Girlis heading on the road to a theatre near you. This week, the jukebox musical that tells the story of the life and times of The Drifters is playing at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield. Whilst this touring production may have a slightly simplified set and not the same degree of star power as the West End production had, it is still a marvellously fun evening out packed to the brim with brilliant songs.
Ed Curtis’ book is very clever, finding ways for the four male actors to play every single role in the show apart from Faye Treadwell. The show finds plenty of humour, whilst also packing an emotional punch despite the cast all playing a huge number of roles each. Jonathan Church’s direction is fast-paced and leads the cast in bringing out the different shades within Curtis’ book. Karen Bruce’s choreography is in very capable hands and has never looked better than with this production’s talented cast.
Anthony Ward’s set is fairly simple with various flats and bars moving in and out. This is done creatively to depict many different locations. With the lack of physical set pieces, Andrzej Goulding’s fairly simple video design also helps to locate the action. Ben Cracknell’s lighting design adds a lot of colour to an otherwise quite grey set design, creating a great party atmosphere in the Lyceum by the end of the show.
The original cast, who are also credited as co-creators, set the bar high for anyone to follow in their shoes but this touring cast do an admirable job.
Carly Mercedes Dyer takes on the role of Faye Treadwell. She gives the strongest acting performance of anyone who has played this role yet. She uses her impeccable comic timing to get some laughs in ways that predecessors in the role haven’t necessarily done. Her vocals are powerful – she is most in her element performing Nobody But Me which is amongst the closest this show gets to a big ensemble production number. Jaydah Bell-Ricketts is just fine as Girl, the daughter of Faye Treadwell, but having an adult play this role rather than a child as was the case in previous productions does diminish some of the emotion of that mother-daughter relationship – especially as Bell-Ricketts and Dyer don’t read as hugely different in age.
Playing The Drifters are Miles Anthony Daley, Ashford Campbell, Tarik Frimpong and Dalton Harris. The four actors warm into their roles and all have their moments to shine. Daley gives a strong performance as George Treadwell, building a great but complex chemistry with Dyer as Faye. Frimpong is generally warm and likeable, whilst still being a good antagonist as Lover Paterson. Harris plays a number of roles including Johnny Moore and Gerhart Thrasher. As a recent winner ofThe X Factorit is unsurprising that is vocals are wonderful. He is not the strongest actor of the cast and could lean into some of the comedic moments more, but this is still early in the tour and your reviewer is sure he will find his feet more as the tour progresses. Campbell was previously a standby for the West End production and it is clear that he has had more time to find how he wants to play his multitude of characters. He brings the house down with a great performance of Stand By Me as Ben E King and he gives an energetic and joyful performance as Rudy Lewis. The four of them dance up a storm and one doesn’t remember the dance being quite as impressive and slick in previous iterations of the show.
The Drifters Girlis a joyous night out at the theatre, with a strong cast, a clever book and concept and overflowing with fantastic hits from decades gone by.
Runs until 30th September 2023.