The Drifters Girl – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre

The Drifters Girl Review

By Steve Crabtree, March 2024

Having read glowing reviews of the West End version of The Drifters Girl, I was really pleased when I knew that the touring show was making its way to Leeds. A great group, with great music – and an intriguing back story that I knew little about. So, my expectations and excitement for this show were pretty lofty.

Greeted by a spinning 7″ record as a backdrop as we took our seats at The Grand Theatre, things looked promising. However, while this jukebox extravaganza dazzles in some aspects, it falls short in others, creating a tapestry of mixed feelings.

The Drifters Girl Review

“Vocal prowess”

But, let’s begin with the undeniable highlight of the show: the vocal prowess on display. The cast’s rendition of The Drifters’ timeless classics breathes new life into these beloved tunes, and the four guys playing The Drifters’ various frontmen sounded pretty special. From the soulful strains of ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’ to the energy of ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, each note was hit with precision. Coupling that with a whole host of other great tunes, this was definitely a feast for the ears.

The music was always going to be a star of this production. Yet, as the melodies transport us through time, I thought that the narrative struggled to find a clear footing.

The storyline? Well, we were here to learn about the resilient, groundbreaking Faye Treadwell (Carly Mercedes Dyer), the trials and tribulations she faced in becoming the first female music group manager, and how she leapt those hurdles to lead The Drifters into an elongated period of success.

The plot races forward at an exceedingly rapid pace, making it challenging to become fully immersed in the story. This speed is particularly overwhelming for those less acquainted with The Drifters’ history, such as myself. Consequently, I found it difficult to establish a truly meaningful connection with The Drifters Girl.

The Drifters Girl Review

“Musical magnificence”

Faye Treadwell’s story deserves to be delivered in a way that makes you leave the theatre a little wiser, and in some ways humbled. But the reality is, at times I was still computing what was happening in one scene, while the story had moved on a couple of scenes. I couldn’t catch a breath.  During the interval, I found out that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.

Yet, amid all that, there are moments of sheer brilliance. The small cast of six delivered their multiple roles very well. And there’s a hugely special mention for the vocals of Ashford Campbell who sang Ben E King’s ‘Stand By Me’ in an immesley captivating way.  Like the rest of the male cast, Campbell took on many roles in the show – after all, The Drifters had over 60 vocalists throughout their lifetime!

And the group’s renditions of ‘Under the Boardwalk’ and ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ served as a testament to the group’s enduring legacy and musical magnificence.

Another highlight of the musical is its candid depiction of the racial tensions The Drifters encountered during their UK tour. The way these incidents are presented deserves significant acclaim. And let’s not overlook the electrifying medley that had the Leeds Grand Theatre on its feet at the end either.

The Drifters Girl Review

“An evening brimming with captivating performances”

We had an appropriate amount of comedy sprinkled into the show too.  The ability of the male members of the cast to play female characters brought many chuckles, and the biggest laugh was reserved for Tarik Frimpong’s Bruce Forsyth impersonation.

The stripped-back but sharp set, complemented by the striking wardrobe, enhanced the show’s quality. However, I remain convinced that the flow of The Drifters Girl could benefit from a revision. Those already familiar with the story of Faye Treadwell and The Drifters will likely find it more accessible.

This story could be, and demands to be something that gets delivered in the same way as Beautiful – The Carole King Story.

While The Drifters Girl may not be without its flaws, it’s an enjoyable show.  It might not always strike the right chords, but if you’re seeking an evening brimming with captivating performances and soul-stirring harmonies, then The Drifters Girl warrants your attention.

The Drifters Girl runs at Leeds Grand Theatre until 23rd March


Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.