Son of A Preacher Man

Son of A Preacher Man
Son of A Preacher Man

Son of A Preacher Man is the latest jukebox musical to hit the touring circuit in the UK. It opened officially in Bromley at the Churchill Theatre on Thursday night. The show is centered around the back catalogue of Dusty Springfield.

It focuses on Kat, Alison and Paul all of whom are either told about, or in Paul’s case experienced first hand the record shop ‘Preacher Man’ that stood in Soho during the 1960’s. They all travel there in order to get guidance from the owner but find he is no longer there. In his place is his son, Simon, running an artisan coffee shop. Paul longs for the man he met as a young boy at the record shop, Alison is mourning for her husband and has fallen for a pupil and Kat has fallen head over heels for a man she has only seen in an online dating profile. Simon tries to draw strength from his fathers memory in order to help this group of strangers with some unexpected consequences.

Upon reading my description of the storyline above you would be forgiven in thinking that this doesn’t sound like the work of a literacy genius or even a storyline which focuses on the fun and humour like some jukebox musicals such as We Will Rock You or Rock of Ages. This perception is entirely correct. The story itself is tenuous, drawn out for the majority of the show until they try to wrap it up quickly and neatly up in the last 5 minutes of the show. This is not helped at all by the dialogue which is ranked as possibly some of the most unnatural conversation I have heard in professional theatre.

At times there were nice concepts such as a trio of singers who worked in the coffee shop called the Cappuccino Sisters or the dance with the empty chairs during ‘ I Don’t Know What To do With Myself.’ However all of these concepts needed developing. In the case of the latter it was unclear if this related to the singles dating club or the bereavement meeting and if this was supposed to be humorous or sensitive.

Admittedly in a jukebox musical you often rely upon the music to get you through. Luckily Diana Vickers as Kat was the saving grace with this show. Her voice really suited the music she was singing. The finalie number ‘ Son Of A Preacher Man,’ was wisely left to Vickers to sing the main chunk of the song with the rest of the cast providing backing vocals.  The rest of the music was passable however it lacked the soul that Dusty’s music oozed. At times we saw on stage musicians but their appearances were sporadic and inconsistent and added very little to the show.

As mentioned Diana Vickers stole the show, not only were her vocals enjoyable but despite the battles she faced with the aforementioned story and dialogue she appeared natural, likeable and funny. Ian Reddington as Simon was also suited to the part although he wasn’t given much of an opportunity to sing or even develop his character. Smaller parts such as the Cappuccino Sisters played by  Michelle Long, Kate Hardisty and Cassiopeia Berkely-Agyepong and Liam Vincent-Kilbride as Kat’s love interest also brought a nice spark to the stage whenever they appeared.

Debra Stephenson played Alison and unfortunately I found her wooden and cold. She was given some bizarre movement during the prologue and her awkwardness in performing this dance that ought to be performed by a more competent or flexible dancer got her off to a rocky start.

Son of A Preacher Man is a show that clearly needs development on many fronts from the plot to the script. Whilst Diana Vickers helps salvage the show she is only due to play the role until the end of the year when someone else takes over for the 2018 part of the tour. I would be interested to see if the show develops on the tour but it would need a large rewrite which probably isn’t viable whilst the show is in the throws of a national tour. Unfortunately this is one that not even Dusty’s music can save.

If you liked this review you may also like my review of Hairspray at the Orchard Theatre and The Wedding Singer at the Churchill Theatre.


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