Son Of A Preacher Man – Review – Bradford Alhambra

Son Of a Preacher Man 2018 Bradford

By @Steve Crabtree, June 2018

The latest “Jukebox musical” to hit Bradford Alhambra is Son Of A Preacher Man, a story directed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood, and based around the back-catalogue of iconic 60’s singer, Dusty Springfield.

Springfield’s music is quite legendary, so I was looking forward to a show that was befitting of her talents and her legacy.

But on this rare occasion, I was to be left disappointed.

Son Of a Preacher Man 2018 Bradford

“Their own understanding of love”

The plot is set around three characters from three different generations. All have their own understanding of love, and all have their problems with it too.

Alison, played by Michelle Gayle, has recently lost her husband. She has since fallen for someone she perhaps shouldn’t have. Paul (Michael Howe) has been harbouring his love for a man he used to see regularly decades ago, and Kat (Alice Barlow) is mourning the loss of her Gran, and at the same time has fallen in love with someone on a dating website that she’s never met.

A sound starting board? Well, it should have been.

Alison, Paul and Kat somehow engineer their need to unravel their heart and mind at ‘Preacher Man’ – an old record café from 60’s London. Alison and Kat’s reasons for heading here are quite weak, and it’s just one of many gaping holes in the plot that functions only to clunkily move the story on.

And despite ‘The Look Of Love’ and ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ performed in a 13-song strong first act, the interval came at the right time.

Act two was a much-needed upgrade on act one, but it still didn’t quite deliver. More realism came in to the characters’ storylines, and sub-plots became a bit tighter, but there was an insistence on throwing improbable things into the tale – something that usually happens when the writers are floundering.

A terrific cast did their best with a central plot line that was flimsy. The subject matter of love, loss, sexuality and loneliness weren’t emotive, and although there was  the occasional enjoyable moment, Son of a Preacher Man was a difficult watch.

Son Of a Preacher Man 2018 Bradford

“When the ‘chicken thing’ is the highlight of the show, you know something isn’t right”

The show ended well. So well in fact, that I was almost fooled in to believing that I’d witnessed another great show in Bradford. But I hadn’t. How they got to this ending was, again, underwhelming and unconvincing. It was a shame – a shame for us watching, and for those performing.

I found Michelle Gayle to be endearing and Alice Barlow’s vocals were quite beautiful, but the storyline really didn’t cater for the talents of either of them, or indeed the rest of the players. Many of the cast played their own instruments in the numbers – we had an accomplished bunch up there – but they all deserve better. Indeed, Dusty Springfield deserves better.

The best tribute musicals never forget a decent plot line and simply hope the strength of the songs alone will pull it through – but Son of a Preacher Man does. So much can be done with Dusty Springfield’s songs, so I really hope they take the show away and rework it. Because when the ‘chicken thing’ is the highlight of the show, you know something isn’t right.


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