The Drifter's Girl, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Carly Mercedes Dyers as Faye Treadwell and three of the company of The Drifters Girl 2024 tour_picture credit The Other Richard
Show details
Ed Curtis (Book), Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry, Beverley Knight, Tosh Wanogho-Maud (Co-Creators), Jonathan Church (Director), Debbie O'Brien (Casting Director), Patrick Molony (Production Manager), Campbell Young Associates (Hair, Wig, Makeup Design), Ben Cracknell (Lighting Design), Tom Marshall (Sound Design), Andrzej Goulding (Video Design), Fay Fullerton (Costume Design), Chris Egan (Music Supervisor, Orchestrations), Karen Bruce (Choreographer), Anthony Ward (Set Design)
Carly Mercedes Dyer (Faye Treadwell), Matthew Dawkins (George Treadwell & Others), Ethan Davies (Ben E. King & Others), Tarik Frimpong (Clyde McPhatter, Lover Paterson & Others), Daniel Haswell (Johnny Moore, Gerhart Thrasher & Others), Jaydah Bell-Ricketts (Girl)
Running time

Idea and execution can lead to either success or disappointment, with many changes on the way to the final result. The Drifters Girl manages to teeter in both realms, showcasing sensational musical theatre numbers that mesmerise despite flat storytelling lacking emotional force. 

The show is based around the story of Faye Treadwell (Carly Mercedes Dyer), real-life boss of the chart-topping American rhythm-and-blues vocal group. She meets George Treadwell (Matthew Dawkins), the group’s manager, who spots her flare for business acumen and they partner up in business and personal life, conceiving a daughter while hiring and firing band members. After George’s sudden death, in an industry she has to fight to be heard in, she buys out the other partners as sole owner of the group, determined to succeed amidst prejudice, legal battles and personal strife, taking The Drifters to London and onto success. 

This is a powerful personal story of racism, sexism, grief, endurance and belief yet Ed Curtis’ bite-sized scenes simply frame the next musical number, never allowing us to feel we’re truly getting into the depths of the central character and her story. The key points and issues are touched upon in some beautiful moments but overall there’s a veneer across the narrative to allow the music to take centre stage.

And take centre stage it does with the music being a true triumph as we skip at dizzyingly quick speed through the varying band’s formations (more than 60 members but picking out highlights). The chart-topping hits come thick and fast with their timeless appeal, as well as showcased in newer arrangements in both style and mash-up, delivered by a sensational ensemble of vocalists. 

Faye’s Treadwell, while never given the space to truly shine in scenes is transformed in song, her powerhouse vocals entrancing the room and her rendition of Ben E King’s 'Stand By Me' a highlight of the show. 

Ethan Davis, Daniel Haswell, Tarik Frimpong and Matthew Dawkins are fantastic support and all deliver with style and gusto in fine voice, covering countless characters by slickly switching using minimum props. Despite Davis and Dawkins being cover due to a bout of sickness, the scene blocking, choreography and killer harmonies were still delivered, and a mention must go to Davis who is blessed with a naturally gorgeous tone that the audience appreciated. 

If you’re looking for an entertaining evening full of wonderful songs and voices without being bogged down with too much emotional thump, this show will satisfy your craving, and maybe even lead you to research a bit more on the inspiration for the crowd-pleasing show. 

The Drifter’s Girl is at Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 4 May

© Lindsay Corr, May 2024