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The Drifters Girl

Michael Harrison Entertainment

Venue Cymru, Llandudno

January 23-27, 2024; 2 hrs

(also Liverpool Empire Feb 27-March 2, Hull New Theatre March 12-16, Leeds Grand Mar 19-23)

A colourful scene from The Drifters Girl

Banner showing a four and a half star rating

With a string of hits to the Drifters name and an against-all-odds story about a black female band manager, The Drifters Girl is a story pretty much destined to appeal.

This show has undoubted potential, but must still work as a show, with slick dance routines, fine harmonies and an engaging story - the last of those maybe not quite so easy in a narrative that ends up in the courts. Luckily, this touring production of the 2021 British musical achieves all three.

The action focuses on Faye Treadwell (Carly Mercedes Dyer) and her relationship with the group of doo-wop/R&B/soul singers described as the Drifters. "Described" because the group name was something of a portmanteau term, covering 60 performers across three major incarnations, as well as a few clones of the original, so defining an actual Drifters is something of a challenge.

Husband and wife team Faye and George Treadwell managed the group until his sudden death in 1967, after which Faye took sole charge until she retired. The key was the trademarking of the group name, which meant the name and the music were front and centre, the group membership changing as circumstances demanded. The flaw was that this didn't stop former band members starting their own "Drifters", the rivalries ending in the courts.

The storyline is remarkable, relating how Faye became a black, female impresario in a white, male-dominated industry; a woman who started managing two years before the civil rights movement under Martin Luther King began and predictably faced both racism and sexism. Frequently she faced a choice between her career and caring for her daughter.

The show documents these and other, often sad, events, but interesting as these are, most audience members are present for the songs, and aren't disappointed. The body of music by the Drifters remains memorable, with classics such as Under the Boardwalk, Saturday Night at the Movies and Save the Last Dance for Me, among others, all performed with great rhythm.

The six performers are excellent. Carly Mercedes Dyer as Faye has great stage presence and performs several show-stopping numbers. The four men - Miles Anthony Daley, Ashford Campbell, Tarik Frimpong and Daniel Haswell - play several roles between them and perform Drifters songs and dance routines to the point of suggesting there are more actors on stage than listed in the credits - a great team, as well as strong individual performers.

The most unfortunate aspect of the performance I saw was that the sound wasn't quite right at the start, and dialogue was difficult to follow. Fortunately this didn't detract from what is a hugely-enjoyable evening's entertainment - a welcome trip down memory lane for many, and a great introduction to the Drifters for others.

More info and tickets here


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