Miles Anthony Daley, Tarik Frimpong, Tré Copeland-Williams and Ashford Campbell, as The Drifters

The Drifters Girl

Birmingham Hippodrome


“Come on over to my place- hey you, we’re having a party” and on Tuesday night the party was at the Birmingham Hippodrome as the music of one of the most enduring vocal harmony groups of the mid 20th century roused a full house to its feet from the stalls to the balcony.

In 1977 I turned on Top of the Pops to see an all black vocal group singing “You’re more than a Number in My Little Red book”. The harmonies were pin sharp, the choreography cheesy (yes the little red book was produced in synchronized perfection) the combination was irresistible.

It was my first introduction to The Drifters who benefitted from a battery of distinguished songwriters over the years, including Greenaway/Macauley, Leiber/Stoller, Pomus/ Shuman, and Ahmet Ertegun

The Drifters are synonymous with two constants, Faye Treadwell ( he eponymous Drifters Girl their manager, whose story this is) , and the constantly changing band line up.

Wisely the show largely eschews the story of the latter in favour of the former creating a musical hagiography of Treadwell. The narrative is strong on the challenges facing a woman of colour in a white male dominated world but less sure footed in dealing with her actions, cynically creating a revolving door of around sixty members of the band for personal profit.  

All sixty are played by the same four excellent and necessarily versatile performers which can be a little confusing to follow visually.

Quibbles about the narrative arc aside, the music is the beating heart of the show which  features around 25 songs including Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies,  Saturday Night at the Movies ,  Save The Last Dance For Me  and my personal favourite  You re More Than A Number In My Little Red Book . The band under the musical direction of Dustin Conrad sounds vibrant and contemporary.

Miles Anthony Daley, Tarik Frimpong, Tré Copeland-Williams, an Ashford Campbell, multitask as The Drifters band members. An unostentatious set works well courtesy of Anthony Ward and Ben Cracknell’s imaginative strip lighting

Ed Curtis’ book provides the basis for events, and contains an inspired interlude mocking Brummie and Scouse accents which went down very well on the night skilfully and humorously highlighting the casual racism of the era. Carly Mercedes Dyer, resplendent in a stunning stylish skirt suit not only holds the show together as Treadwell, but her powerhouse vocals also provide a necessary counterpoint and variety to the male voices.

An ensemble medley finale was great fun and hugely enjoyed by all. Runs until Sat 20th and continues on nationwide tour to Bromley, Edinburgh and Cardiff. 

Gary Longden


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