Ever the strong critic on Strictly Come Dancing, I had high expectations as Craig Revel Horwood directs Son of a Preacher Man, a story of lost love and broken hearts and the hope that one man can help them – The Preacher Man – also the name of the record shop back in the 60s where he was well known for his advice to cure the lonely hearts…
It started out with great promise as three strangers took to the stage mourning lost love and a connection to the Soho record shop – cue the ensemble cast and a colourful medley of Dusty Springfield songs as we are thrown back to the swinging era of vinyl, beehives, and the mashed potato. Sadly we didn’t stay there as it might have made for a more vibrant show.
Paul played by Michael Howe, had never forgotten the love of his life (that never was) from his teenage years spent in the record shop and decides to return to London for closure, Alison (Debra Stephenson) has lost her husband and wants help with a recent forbidden love and young Kat (Alice Barlow) has just lost her Gran who told her many tales of the old record shop.
As the three strangers meet on the Soho street where the record shop once stood, they discover it has become a coffee shop ran by Simon – the son of the preacher man!
All are experiencing unreciprocated love – Paul’s old love is a man, Alison’s a teenage student she is coaching through English Lit and Kat has fallen for a profile picture of a man on MatchMe.com.
Whilst the main cast lacked chemistry – maybe due to Alice and Debra not having had enough stage time together – the ensemble were strong and carried this performance plus there was a clever set design that kept the stage busy.
We were treated to some great Dusty songs that fitted in to the story well – standouts for me were “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” and “Spooky.”
Waitresses in the coffee shop – The Cappuccino Sisters (Michelle Long, Kate Hardisty, Cassiopeia Berkley-Agyepong) – were entertaining and involved in some great songs including “I Only Want to Be With You” which told us Kat’s obsession with a photo of Mike the Knight (Liam Vincent-Kilbride – nice press ups J) I don’t know how Michelle stayed in those heels all night let alone danced the way she did – you go girl!
Nigel Richards as the socially awkward Simon played a great role and had some good lines delivered with perfect comedic timing – he needed more opportunity to put his rounded singing voice to use and an Alison who performed with more confidence.
Jon Bonner as Paul’s lost love Jack had a strong voice, Ellie-Jane Goddard’s chicken had to be seen to be believed and she was fabulous with many musical instruments as well as her voice. The cast is rounded up by Lewis Kidd as student Liam, Rachael McAllister, Jess Barker and Gary Mitchinson whose voice I loved.
Whether the storylines were a bit too shocking for some or people were expecting the story to be about Dusty Springfield there were a few empty seats when we returned from the interval. There were still a few people up on their feet at the end to dance along to Alice’s lovely rendition of “Son of a Preacher Man” and the main cheers were heard for Nigel Richards and the Cappuccino Sisters.
Not an unpleasant evening and Dusty Springfield’s songs were done well.
Son of a Preacher Man, Theatre Royal Nottingham until Saturday 3rd February