The Drifters Girl – Review – Bradford Alhambra Theatre
By Christine Goode, October 2023
Wow! Move over Jersey Boys a new jukebox musical is on the scene. The Drifters Girl opened at Bradford Alhambra Theatre this week – and it is a sensation! Delighting musical theatre fans of all ages, but especially those familiar with timeless hit songs such as ‘Under The Boardwalk’, ‘Kissin’ In The Back Row Of The Movies’, ‘Saturday Night At The Movies’ to name just a few, the 25 songs are packed into this fabulous show.
The story focuses on Faye Treadwell, manager of the famed American vocal group The Drifters. A no-nonsense businesswoman, we follow Treadwell through the eyes of her daughter as she embarks on a mission, alongside her husband George, to manage and sustain the brand – and not necessarily the band – of The Drifters.
Incredibly this show has a cast of only six characters, with four taking multiple roles – a nod, perhaps, to the fact that The Drifters group has had over 60 members during their 60 years of success. This must be the hardest working cast in theatre right now – as soon as they finish one huge song as one character, they turn around and are straight on to portray another.
The script is pacy with some brilliant lines, as Treadwell, audaciously played by powerhouse Carly Mercedes Dyer, gives a memorable performance, owning the stage while effortlessly belting her way through songs such as ‘Harlem Child’. Her emotional range is huge as she gives spine-tingling performance after spine-tingling performance.
Miles Anthony Daley, Ashford Campbell, Tarik Frimpong and Dalton Harris have the enormous task of playing The Drifters, as well as other countless characters and, without a doubt, they are all remarkable. Every single one of them has impeccable vocals, high energy, comedy, and sentiment whilst giving fully-encompassing performances. I have never seen anything quite like it!
The set design is ingenious and very modern, in contrast to the era of the story. Mobile lighting and video enhance the many varied scenes, making the audience feel as though we are in the studio or in whatever city the band is touring in. Costume design by Fay Fullerton is lavish; smart suits and fabulous evening gowns with rich, sumptuous fabrics representing the era beautifully as they transition through the decades. The choreography is reminiscent of Jersey Boys – hardly surprising given that The Drifters were primarily formed as a backing group.
“Heartache and comedy”
The show deals with plenty of difficult issues: band members drafted into the army, sudden death, and society’s attitude towards black performers during the midst of the civil rights movement, and this could appear challenging on paper. However, the music and a brilliant script, with equal doses of passion, heartache, and comedy balances out The Drifters Girl, making it quite simply one of the best new jukebox musicals around.
The lights come up and, after the standing ovation, it seems The Drifters Girl is everyone’s new favourite. So while some go and prepare for the weekend and perhaps another Saturday Night At The Movies, I make other plans – I immediately book to see the show again on Saturday!
‘The Drifters Girl’ is at Bradford Alhambra until Saturday