malvern Preacherman

The cast of Son of a Preacherman Picture: Darren Bell

Son Of A Preacher Man

Malvern Theatres


Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood has directed and choreographed a multitude of stage shows from Sister Act to Chess, and of course, Strictly Come Dancing The Live Tour.

This touring jukebox musical of Dusty Springfield's hits is among his latest work and reached Malvern Theatres this week.

The music of Springfield provides a wealth of material for Revel Horwood and the show's writer Warner Brown to base the story around, but what they end of up with is a slightly bizarre but quirky tale.

It's about three troubled strangers from different generations who meet in London while trying to track down an old record shop owner - The Preacher Man - who gave out wise advice in the 1960s. What they find instead is the Son of the Preacher Man (cue the song), who does his best to help them with their romantic woes.

What's refreshing is that the storyline isn't totally predictable and there's some risqué topics like a teacher/pupil attraction, the perils of internet dating and two ageing gay men who have denied themselves their true feelings and sexuality for a lifetime.

What is predictable for this kind of musical, sadly, is using random story plots to crowbar songs into the show.

With hits like The Look Of Love, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, Nowhere To Run and I Only Want To Be With You, the soundtrack is the forte of the show, although it must be said that the script and storyline are both pretty weak.

That said, there are moments when the narrative really comes together, when it's sentimental, emotional and well written. Moments like when there's a grief counselling session and the participants sing I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself to empty chairs. It leaves a lump in the throat.

Unfortunately, the show is a hit and miss of sections where it jumps from being vaguely realistic and decent to uncomfortably bawdy and bizarre and aimed at the wrong age group for the audience (which seemed to be mainly 50 plus). It's also a surprise that there are hardly any big dance numbers considering Revel Horwood's involvement.

The show is boosted by much of the cast also playing the saxophone, cello and other instruments on stage while they act; but it's a trio of waitresses called The Cappuccino Sisters who are the best thing by far. They sing, act and play music while being animated and interesting enough to make you want to know more about them. .

Alice Barlow (Rae Wilson from Hollyoaks and a contestant on The Voice) has a sensational voice as sassy youngster Kat, who has suffered an online heartbreak. While Michael Howe as Paul, who is seeking the man he fell in love with in the 1960s, is also a strong singer and shows his aptitude for playing the guitar too in a lovely rendition of Spooky.

The third of the troubled strangers is played by Debra Stephenson, who has the voice but seems uncomfortable and awkward when acting.

Dusty Springfield was one of the most iconic British female singers if the 1960s and so it's good to hear all those emotional songs in a theatre show. While there's much to like about Son Of A Preacher Man, there's also much that needs to be improved.

It's hard not to please the crowd when you have hit after hit of classics from Springfield's back catalogue but it did leave me Wishin' and Hopin' for something a bit more special. To 24-02-18

Alison Brinkworth


Index page Malvern Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre