The Drifters Girl Delivers the Thrills!

“You know it’s cruel
Out here in this rat race
There’s just one rule
Out here in this rat race

Out here in the jungle
You’ve got to fight from nine to five
In this steel and concrete jungle
You’ve gotta fight to stay alive

It’s a rat race “
Lyric from Rat Race

There is so much that is perfect about The Drifters Girl, the musical that tells the story of Faye Treadwell (Beverley Knight) a woman of colour who broke into a male controlled music industry more than 60 years ago.  So we have an inspirational story as Faye Treadwell, from Arkansas who managed, recruited and let go the 60 male singers who passed through the Drifters name. 

This show has been co-created by its performers which is also a kind of show biz democracy and the resulting production is so professional, so beautifully presented with singing voices that are to die for and song tunes with melodies we love.  Director Jonathan Church, well known for his shows coming out of Chichester, and now Bath, is happy to let these guys and gal take centre stage as creators.  We hope there’ll be no legal battles the way there were over the Drifters name!

Beverley Knight as Faye and Adam J Bernard as George Treadwell (Photo: Johan Persson)

The five are Beverley Knight who is well known in British Musical Theatre and who created the lead role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard.   Matt Henry (who has legs up to his armpits, how did we miss him for the English rowing team or as a fast bowler?) was laden with awards for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots.  Adam J Bernard who plays Faye’s husband George Treadwell, originated the role of Jimmy in Dreamgirls and, like Matt, won an Olivier award, for that show.  Tarinn Callender starred as Bob in Come From Away  and created the roles in Hamilton, London  of Hercules Mulligan and James Madison.  Tosh Wanogho-Maud is less well known apart of course from his role as the footman in Bridgerton but played Jimmy in Dreamgirls and takes on stand out singing roles in as Ben E King in “Stand By Me” and the Drifter who died so young, Rudy Lewis.

The Drifters songs are from several decades starting in the 1950s when Stephen Sondheim was writing the lyrics for West Side Story, through the 1960s when their tunes like “Under the Boardwalk”, “On Broadway” and “Up on the Roof” competed in the charts with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, to the 1970s, when there were fewer hit parade hits but Faye’s Drifters continued to tour, some of the time in the UK.

The cast take on all the different roles, the wonderfully exaggerated British accents of Roger and Roger or the Brummees for the UK tour and with a giant leap of the imagination they play Peter, Paul and Mary.  I think that was Matt Henry in the long blonde wig!  Matt Henry also imitates Bruce Forsyth for the Sunday Night at the London Palladium show. 

Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry and Tosh Wanogho-Maud (Photo: Johan Persson)

So are we to condemn The Drifters Girl  because it is about exploited male singers or to commend it for giving its cast co-creation roles?  You do know the von Trapp singers caught the train out of Austria, they didn’t flee over the mountains from the Nazis in The Sound of Music.

Faye Treadwell’s daughter Tina had the original idea.  Her daughter, who is left in the US for the UK tours, is played alternately by Dara Ajagbe, Amari Brown, Arabel Harley and Savanna Musoni.

What is quite special is that they wear the waved wigs of the 1950s and 60s before Afros became the mode, stylised suits and their dance routines with exaggerated hand movements don’t in any way cause any derogatory giggles as professionalism is rooted in this show.  Anthony Ward’s set is simple, textured boards and moving apertures with great lighting so we can change location without clunky set changes.  Beverley’s Knight’s outfits are ageless.

Beverley Knight’ songs are to do with the love for her husband, great ballads of love and loss. “Harlem Child”, “There Goes My First Love”, “I Don’t Want To Go On Without You” and her singing is sublime. 

In my opinion The Drifters Girl is a Five Star show!  Enjoy! 

The Company (Photo: Johan Persson)

Musical Numbers

 

 

 

Come On Over To My Place

Dance with Me

Follow Me

Fools Fall In Love

Harlem Child

Hello, Happiness

I Don’t Want To Go On

Without You

In the Land of Make Believe

If I Had A Hammer

Kissin’ In The Back Row 

Of The Movies

Money, Honey

Nobody But Me

Rat Race

Saturday Night At The Movies.

Save The Last Dance For Me

Stand By Me

Sweets for my Sweet

There Goes My Baby

There Goes My First Love

This Magic Moment

Under The Boardwalk

Unforgettable

What’cha Gonna Do

When My Little Girl Is Smiling

You’re More Than A Number 

in my Little Red Book

Production Notes

 

The Drifters Girl

Book Ed Curtis

Based on an idea by Tina Treadwell

Directed by Jonathan Church

Co-created by Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry, Beverley Knight and Tosh Wanogho-Maud

Cast

Starring:

Beverley Knight

Matt Henry

Tosh Wanugho-Maud

Tarinn Callender

Adam J Bernard

Dara Ajagbe/Amari Brown

/Arabel Harley/Savanna Musoni. 

Creatives

Director: Jonathan Church

Assistant Director: Tyrone Huntley

Set Designer: Anthony Ward

Costume Design: Fay Fullerton

Choreographer:  Karen Bruce

Musical Director and Vocal Arrangements:

Will Stuart

Musical Supervision and Orchestration:

Chris Egan

Sound Design: Tom Marshall

Lighting Designer:  Ben Cracknell

Video Design:  Andrzej Goulding

Information

Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes 

with an interval

Booking until 26th March 2022

Website: thedriftersgirl.com

Address:

Garrick Theatre

2 Charing Cross Road

London  WC2H 0HH

Phone: 0330 333 4811

Rail/Tube: Charing Cross

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Garrick Theatre, on 30th November 2021